Diamondback Terrapin Restoration
With its spotted skin and brightly colored shell, the diamondback terrapin is one of the most remarkable-looking animals on the South Carolina coast. The beauty of their shells nearly led to the turtle's extinction in the twentieth century, however, when terrapins were hunted for their meat as well. Today, while turtle soup and jewelry are no longer popular, numbers of the world’s only salt marsh-dwelling turtle remain a fraction of their historic size.
In South Carolina, diamondback terrapins were protected from commercial harvest in 2006 but continue to show declines due to threats including habitat loss and crab pot entanglement.
As a "high priority species" under the State Wildlife Action Plan, the diamondback terrapin has been the focus of five successful State Wildlife Grants since 2009 – ranging from a project to rear young terrapins from eggs to research on their preferred nesting habitat to the launch of a public reporting form for terrapin sightings. Each project contributed highly valuable baseline information about a species that plays an important role in South Carolina salt marshes but has been historically understudied.