AN INTERNATIONAL animal rights charity has said that an alligator snapping turtle found in Cumbria 'was very likely being kept as a pet.' 

World Animal Protection has been running a campaign called Wildlife Not Pets in the UK for a few years, which works to curb the exotic pet trade. 

Earlier this week, this publication wrote a story on an alligator snapping turtle found in Urswick Tarn that was seen by campaigners. The turtle, which has a strong jaw that can pierce through bone, was carefully taken to Wild Side Vets in Barrow after a community effort by residents of Great Urswick. 

Charlotte Regan, wildlife campaign manager, said: "Alligator snapping turtles belong in their natural habitats in the rivers and streams of the southern United States, not in Cumbrian tarns. It is, sadly, very likely that this turtle was being kept as a pet. As a society, we desperately need to re-evaluate the acceptability of keeping wild species as pets; even if captive-bred, they are still wild animals, with complex welfare needs.

The Westmorland Gazette: The charity said that the turtle was 'very likely' a petThe charity said that the turtle was 'very likely' a pet (Image: Denise Chamberlain)

"No matter what the circumstances, abandoning an animal is never an acceptable course of action. As well as putting the animal's welfare at risk, releasing non-native species into the wild can pose serious threats to local wildlife populations and ecosystems."

READ MORE: Alligator snapping turtle found in Cumbrian tarn

Urswick, Bardsea and Stainton parish councillor Denise Chamberlain, who took the turtle to the vet, said: "It's a very dangerous invasive species. They can snap arms and small children. It's an item from the pet trade being dumped because an owner was unable to look after it."

Alligator snapping turtles are known for their armour, which gives them a prehistoric dinosaur-like appearance. Even in other states outside of the south-eastern US, they are considered an invasive species because of the impact they have on the local ecology and the fact that they have no natural predators.  

According to the Britannica website, they can grow to 80 to 100cm and weigh 70 to 90kg. Their life span in the wild usually ranges up to around 45 years. 

The website states: "Capable of exerting a force of several hundred newtons, their bite can easily break through bone and has been known to sever human fingers."