Monday 25 September 2017

'Stink pot' turtles given new home

One of nine African helmeted turtles found in an illegal shipment of reptiles seized by Customs officials at Heathrow airport
One of nine African helmeted turtles found in an illegal shipment of reptiles seized by Customs officials at Heathrow airport

An illegal collection of rare African turtles which emit a foul-smelling musk when stressed have been given a home by an aquarium.

The nine African helmeted turtles were part of an illegal shipment of reptiles seized by customs officials at Heathrow airport.

The olive-coloured turtles, which range from 5in to 7in in length, were discovered on a flight from Africa and it is believed they were probably destined for the pet trade.

But following their discovery, the smelly group have been given a new home at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Lindsay Holloway, Blue Reef spokesman, said: "As well as being one of the most intelligent members of the turtle family, helmeted turtles have the nickname 'stink pots' as they are renowned for emitting a truly disgusting musky odour when threatened or stressed.

"The turtles have been living in our quarantine facility until now but this is the first time that visitors will have an opportunity to see them."

He added: "Despite their relatively small size, cute appearance and apparent fixed grins the tiny turtles are renowned as highly successful predators.

"African helmeted turtles are thought to be unique in the turtle world because they are capable of hunting in packs - catching and drowning much larger prey including birds, mammals, amphibians and other reptiles.

"The turtles are also known as African aquatic side-neck turtles because, unlike other turtles and tortoises, they cannot fully retract their head and instead have a unique 'folding' neck.

"Usually found in marshes, creeks and waterholes, the semi-aquatic reptiles are capable of surviving long periods of drought by burying themselves in mud and effectively going into suspended animation until the rains return. It is thought that the turtles may also act as cleaners, picking off the parasites from the hides of rhinoceroses which visit waterholes to drink."

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