Japan: Snapping turtles menace farmers and residents

Snapping turtle in Japan

Japan is reportedly facing a surge in its population of snapping turtles - threatening some of the country's fragile ecosystems as well as its people's fingers.

Snapping turtles originally come from the Americas, but turned up in Japan as pets in the 1960s, Kyodo news agency reports. Some turtles must have escaped to the wild, as there were an estimated 1,000 turtles roaming the Chiba Prefecture 10 years ago. The turtles have been classed in Japan as an invasive species and are eating up fish, bird and weed stocks, and chewing their way through fishermen's nets.

Last month, fishermen caught 44 of the mighty amphibians in rivers feeding the local Lake Inba, and the environment ministry has taken a total of 3,000 into captivity so far. But scientists say this isn't enough. Biologist Hideaki Kato of Shizuoka University says: "By the time an increase in the population of snapping turtles is noticed, it is likely to have done considerable damage to the ecosystem already". He thinks authorities should focus on destroying the turtles' eggs - they lay 20-30 a time, The Japan Times reports.

But it is difficult to find people willing to tackle the turtles. They can be up to a metre long and weigh 35kg (77lb), and can apparently cause serious harm with their bite. Local authorities are already reporting cases of children being bitten, the paper says.

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