The European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) is present throughout Europe and lives in marshes, ponds, lakes, wide river mouths and calm water bodies with plenty of vegetation. In Italy, besides Emys orbicularis, which can be found throughout the peninsula, a new species endemic in Sicily has recently been identified: the Sicilian pond terrapin, whose scientific name, Emys trinacris, is from the Greek word Trinacria, meaning “three-pointed”, the earliest known name for the island.
Among the first populations of Sicilian pond terrapins to be studied where those living in the WWF oasis of Preola Lake and Gorghi Tondi, where extensive studies and researches continue to be conducted on this species. The oasis is comprised of a number of water bodies of karst origin, natural and brackish water lakes. The Preola Lake and Gorghi Tondi regional natural reserve is a special area, with many unusual features, which, together with the surrounding green areas, make it a site of great naturalistic and landscape value. The Sicilian pond terrapins species is a critically endangered species due to the destruction of its habitat and has been included by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the “Red List of Italian Vertebrates” threatened with extinction (Rondinini et al., 2013). Additional major threats to this species include wetland reclamation, vehicle traffic and habitat fragmentation, as well as the widespread presence of an alien species of terrapin, the red-eared slider terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans). The WWF is at the forefront of the fight for the protection of this special and rare Sicilian species, which is present both in its Preola Lake and Gorghi Tondi and in its Torre Salsa Oases. In these two sites, the WWF conducts monitoring and conservation initiatives and, at the Gorghi Tondi Oasis, it has also set up a dedicated terrapin breeding and nursery centre.