Turtley awesome: How a 90s craze led to terrapins in the Wensum
- Credit: PA/Jake Horne
Around 30 years ago an unlikely craze swept the globe.
The stories of four crime-fighting reptiles captured the hearts of children everywhere and soon the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were big business.
But some parents, eager to please their little ones, took it one step further and bought terrapins in honour of the cartoon characters.
But terrapins don't make for the cuddliest of pets. And now Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo have made a come back - in the Wensum.
Terrapins have been spotted up and down the river and experts believe they have thrived after being dumped as unwanted pets.
Jake Horne, 29 and his wife Jessica from NR3 spotted one huge specimen from their kayak last weekend.
Jake said: “We were heading upstream towards Hellesdon Mill.
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“We were paddling along, chatting and enjoying the lovely spring sunshine.
“I happened to just look around and I saw the turtle, I couldn’t believe it.”
Jake and Jessica paddled over to where the turtle was in order to get a closer look.
He said: “At first I was unsure if it was real as there are some landmarks along that stretch of river that are fake, but then it moved.
“We kept our distance as we didn’t want to startle it but it really was an actual turtle basking in the sun.”
Jake said: “Before this, the strangest thing I had seen was crayfish, they were non-native ones that originate from America.”
He added that he was excited to have seen it the terrapin but he doesn’t want people to go looking for it.
And Scott Birch also found a hero in a half shell while fishing in Costessey last year.
He said: “I got a bite and I reeled in what I thought was a rock.
“It turned out to be a red-eared terrapin which is a non-native species.
“They are not supposed to be in UK river and are clearly from Ninja Turtle craze.”
Kevin Murphy from Norfolk Wildlife Rescue has seen many terrapins along the river Wensum when kayaking.
He said: “They are likely unwanted pets, there was a huge influx in demand after a Ninja Turtles film at the cinema.
“These terrapins grow to a huge size and most folk fail to fully accommodate them.”
Kevin advised people not to buy them as pets as they grow to the size of a dinner plate.
Fact file: What is a terrapin?
Terrapins are a type of hard-shelled small turtle that live in fresh water and ponds.
The most common species being red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied sliders and Cumberland sliders.
The lifespan of a terrapin is around 30 years.
Females can grow up to 25cm and males 21cm.
Terrapins eat freshwater fish and invertebrates.
But experts say ownership is not something that should be rushed into as they require lots of care and equipment to keep them healthy.
They should not be petted and are especially fragile when they are young.
Abandoning terrapins in UK waters is illegal because can damage the local ecosystem and can cause the released animal to suffer in the new conditions.