THE release of a new big-budget version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has led to fears for the safety of the real creatures.

Marine experts fear a fresh spate of people buying cute baby turtles and terrapins without knowing anything about them.

They are concerned that buyers would be oblivious of the care they need, how long they live or even how big they grow.

The warning has come from the Sea Life Centre at Scarborough, which this weekend is launching its own two-week turtle festival.

Senior aquarist Todd German said that at the height of the franchise hundreds of thousands of turtles were acquired as pets but many later had to be rehomed and others were just dumped in rivers and streams.

“It was the reason why attractions like Scarborough Sea Life had to set up turtle sanctuaries to house a range of species that had outgrown home aquarium tanks or been seized by Customs officers on their arrival in the country,” he said.

However most facilities have reached capacity, and were having to turn down appeals from desperate owners anxious to be rid of their fast-growing and expensive-to-keep pets.

Mr German said the shortage of available homes had led thousands of owners to simply dump their turtles or terrapins in the countryside - presenting a serious threat to endemic wildlife.

“They can’t breed successfully in our climate, but they can survive quite cold winters and they are voracious predators which out-compete many other native freshwater species for available food,” said Todd.

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