THE Andalucian Environmental Agency (AMA) is investigating the discovery in Huelva of an unusual and potentially dangerous exotic reptile–snapping turtle.

These turtles (Chelydra serpentina), an exotic species originating from America, are large freshwater turtles and ownership of these reptiles in Spain is forbidden.

The turtle, easily recognizable because of its rugged, muscular build with a rigid carapace (upper shell), characteristic powerful beak-like jaws, and highly mobile head and neck (hence the specific name serpentina, meaning “snake-like”), was found in El Portil, on the coast of Huelva.

According to official sources from Huelva’ Sustainable Development Delegation, the turtle is approximately half a metre long and belongs to a species that is potentially dangerous to humans.

Common Snapping Turtle
Common Snapping Turtle found in Spain’s Huelva.

While rare, a snapping turtle can bite off human fingers or toes with its impressive jaw strength of over 1,000 pounds.

Additionally, their presence outside their natural habitat poses a threat to biodiversity, typically being at the top of the food chain in their natural surroundings, they will stalk other animals such as fish, birds, amphibians, mammals and other reptiles.

Initial investigations suggest that the turtle may have escaped or been released by its owner, even though ownership of these reptiles is illegal, as stated in Decree 42/2008, which regulates the keeping of potentially dangerous animals in Andalucia.

The Andalucian Environmental Agency has verified that the exotic reptile has no microchip identification.

The turtle has been transferred to the Centre for the Recovery of Threatened Species (CREA-CEGMA) ‘Marismas del Odiel’, from there it will be sent to a zoo.

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