Chris Otley                     Etchings                 Drawings              Photography              Instagram                         About

Red-Eared Terrapin
Graphite on Paper
Approx 42x59cm (unframed)

This drawing is the first in a new series, focusing on invasive species of wildlife found in London. It combines a study of a red-eared slider terrapin with a hand-drawn copy of a historic 1930s map of London's sewer system.

This attractive species originates from the area around the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, but is now widely distributed across the US and many other parts of the world. In the early 1990s, 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' cartoon mania swept across the UK, and along with it came a huge spike in the importation of red-eared terrapins from the US. Over 52 million were exported from the US between 1989 and 1997.

Concerns quickly mounted over numbers of turtles being released into the wild by owners who had either lost interest or couldn't provide the substantial habitat required for adult-sized specimens. By 1997, the importation of these turtles into the EU had been banned.

They are still a fairly common sight across the various canals, ponds and lakes of London; while doubts have been raised about the likelihood of terrapins breeding in the wild here in the UK (due to the consistency required in egg incubation temperatures), with a life expectancy of over 30 years, they are likely to remain for some time yet. Debates continue as to the damage they may or may not be causing to local ecosystems.