No, we’re not talking pizza-scoffing, crime-busting action heroes here. Ninja is the name of a baby red-eared terrapin (a Trachemys scripta elegans to be exact) that was recently spotted along the Regent’s Canal. The young reptile, which is about the size of a matchbox, was found by Kevin Jarvis, a biology graduate.
Terrapins are a non-native species to the UK and have earned a bad reputation on these shores as voracious devourers of British fish, newts, and ducklings. The reptiles have been a feature of British waterways since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze in the late 1980s, which prompted a rush of people buying them as pets – and then dumping them in rivers when they grew too big for fish tanks. But they have never been known to breed in the UK.
Now, the sighting of Ninja, who is only a few weeks old, has caused concern that the species may have bred in the UK for the first time due to the recent hot summer and general trend in upward temperatures, in which the animals thrive – and breed. The red-eared terrapin, which is native to the US, Mexico and many countries in south America, can grow to about 30cm across (the size of a dinner plate).
The hunt is on for other baby terrapins – if it turns out that the species is breeding, steps might have to be taken to control the animals. But for now, anyway, Ninja is safe. Rebecca Taylor
If you’ve seen a terrapin you can email firstname.lastname@example.org