The Real TMNT

A RARE American turtle with jaws capable of biting off fingers has been found in an inner-Sydney drain.

And experts say a family of the endangered alligator snapping turtles could be living in the city.

The rescued adult turtle is believed to be one of eight babies stolen fraom a reptile park 21 years ago.

Council workers stumbled on the surly creature - which can bite a broom stick in half - in Alexandria on the weekend.

Reptile rescuer Brad McDonald said it had probably been living in canals and wetlands for years, feeding on rats and cats.

"I reckon there's probably quite a few of them down there," he said.

Recent heavy rains had probably flushed out the large male, nicknamed Cowabunga after the catch-cry of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It took six men and a wheelbarrow to haul the turtle from the drain.

The possible link to the 1979 theft of the baby turtles emerged when Mr McDonald drove the creature to the Australian Reptile Park.

He didn't get bitten but his car copped a clawing.

What the article above reads:
Meet our own mutant Ninja turtle
Found in Sydney drain

The park has one other alligator snapper - a female which survived a fire at the park in July.

The turtle was found wandering through the glowing embers the morning after the blaze, but her partner had been killed.

Park managers now hope to use their latest addition to start another breeding program.

The alligator snapping turtles are native to America and are listed as one of the world's most endangered animals.

Numbers have dwindled because of pollution and loss of habitat.

Trappers are also known to sell their meat for soup.

The nocturnal turtles like to live in stagnant ponds or muddy, dirty habitats.
Mind your fingers

ALLIGATOR snapping turtles:

- LIVE for up to 80 years and weigh up to 100kg.

- ARE one of the largest freshwater turtle breeds.

- EAT rotting plants, fish, snakes, frogs and other small animals.

- ARE on World Wildlife Fund's top ten endangered animals list.

- CAN stay submerged for long periods.
Rescuer Mr McDonald didn't believe it was an alligator snapper at first

"I thought they were having me on. It's the weirdest beast I've been called to save," he said.

"It's good to see there's life in the drains of Sydney.

"But they're pretty dangerous. If you see one stay away from it and call some help."

Mary Rayner of Australian Reptile Park said the rescued turtle seemed placid and was resting in a pond.

"We haven't introduced him to our female yet, but we will," she said.

"And hopefully there'll be romance."
More: Ninjalara's visit to the Australian Reptile Park.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2000.
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