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Discovery Of Chinese Turtle On Quincy Beach 'Raised Alarms' For Experts

QUINCY (CBS) – The discovery of a kind of turtle normally found in Asia on a Quincy beach "raised alarms" for wildlife experts who fear the species could have a negative impact on the local environment.

Passers-by on Wollaston Beach found what they believed to be a sea turtle digging in the sand earlier this week.

Representatives from the New England Aquarium responded to the beach, but found it was a species they had never seen before.

Dr. Charlie Innis, the aquarium's head veterinarian, identified it as a Chinese soft-shelled turtle, which is found throughout eastern Asia.

"The event was noteworthy, but the sighting of another similar turtle in the same area later this week has raised alarms among wildlife officials as it appears that someone is releasing this non-native and potentially invasive species into local waters," aquarium officials said.

Quincy Turtle
A Chinese soft-shelled turtle found in Quincy. (Image Credit: New England Aquarium)

Because the turtles can survive in cold temperature environments, officials believe they could establish themselves in New England.

Their impact to the local environment is unknown, but aquarium officials said most invasive species have detrimental impacts on their new environments.

Chinese soft-shelled turtles are commonly raised to be eaten in China.

Aquarium representatives believe someone may have purchased the turtles locally to be eaten, but changed their mind and released them in the Quincy area.

A second theory is also being considered by experts. In Buddhism, there is a practice of releasing animals, including turtles, back into the wild as a compassionate gesture.

"That practice when releasing locally caught wildlife is not unsound but is problematic when releasing species that are not native to a local environment," the aquarium said. "Beyond the potential impacts of an invasive species, most non-native species often die quickly as they do not have the adaptations to survive in unfamiliar environments."

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