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A couple have spoken of their surprise after finding what they believed to be a sea turtle washed up on a beach, only to discover that it was a freshwater terrapin.
Martyn and Merrill Powell, from Portsmouth, were walking along Southsea beach when they spotted something moving under a pile of seaweed which they discovered was a large turtle.
Mr Powell said:
''It was a horrendous day and our first thought was that it must be a sea turtle which had become stranded on the beach as a result of the rough seas.
''To be honest, the only thing that stopped us from trying to put it back into the water was the state of the weather as we were worried it would only strand again.''
It was only after the couple took the creature - which they nicknamed Tabitha - home and decided to take it along to the Blue Reef aquarium in Southsea that they realised it was actually a freshwater terrapin.
Mr Powell said: ''Thank goodness we decided against putting Tabitha into the seawater as it would have probably killed her.
''We did think about maybe taking her home with us but she's very large and the aquarium is much better suited to looking after her.''
Aquarists believe the red-eared terrapin was probably an abandoned pet which had been dumped after outgrowing its home.
Blue Reef's Jenna MacFarlane said:
''People buy these cute little creatures and either don't realise or fail to take into account the fact that they will keep getting bigger.
''Red-eared terrapins begin life as these incredibly miniature reptiles which are about the size of a box of matches.
''Within a few short years however they can reach 30cm or more and that's when people start abandoning them.
''Many of the country's lakes have become dumping grounds for terrapins and that is posing a potential threat to native species of wildlife which simply can't cope with sharing their habitat with these aggressive invaders.''