Two bizarre turtles - from a species dubbed ‘the world’s weirdest turtle’ because of its strange looks - have gone on display at the Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary.
‘Bonnie and Clyde’ are ‘Mata Mata’ turtles and considerably less glamorous than their anti-hero namesakes might suggest.
The prehistoric looking creatures sport long necks ending in triangular flat heads covered in nodules and flaps of skin, with horns protruding from their noses, while their shells are covered in spiny dips and ridges.
Though currently 12cm long and 12 months old, the turtles can grow up to two feet and have been homed in the centre’s ‘Turtle World’ area. They join an eclectic clan of Sea Life turtles including ‘snake necked’ and ‘side necked’ turtles and ‘Mississippi map’ turtles, as well as a metre long loggerhead turtle named Antiopi.
Jordan Woodhead, Scarborough Sea Life turtle expert, said: “Bonnie and Clyde are certainly eye catching – we haven’t seen anything quite like them before – but they’re already a huge hit with visitors. I’ve overheard the phrase ‘ugly cute’ used to describe them more than once – perhaps Mata Mata turtles are the ‘pugs’ of the turtle world!”
Jordan hopes the new turtles’ intriguing appearance will ignite fresh interest in the Turtle World displays so staff can highlight to Sea Life visitors the plight of turtles around the globe.
Jordan said: “There are more than 300 species of turtle in our oceans and rivers today but so many are critically endangered or soon will be.
“The tourism trade has had a hugely detrimental impact on turtle populations. Sea turtles instinctively bury their eggs in soft, dry sand just below the beach surface but sun loungers press and compact the sand on top the nests. This means hatchlings can’t get to the surface when they break out of their eggs because the sand is packed too tight for them to push their way to the surface, so they get buried alive.
“Ocean pollution is another problem as many sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish when they are floating in the ocean and eat them whole, it’s tragic” he said.
During ‘turtle talks’ at feeding times, Sea Life staff encourage visitors to buy fish from local fishermen who are mindful of by-catch in fishing nets, as well as encouraging them to avoid using plastic bags and reduce ocean pollution.
Those interested in seeing Sea Life’s new Mata Mata turtles for themselves and finding out more about turtle conservation are invited to visitwww.visitsealife.com/scarborough.