A turtle which only lives in freshwater in America has been discovered on a beach in Hampshire.

The yellow-bellied slider turtle, which is believed to have been abandoned after it grew too big to be a pet, was found by a couple as they went for a walk along a beach near Fareham.

After initially thinking the turtle was dead, they contacted the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth, when they realised it was still breathing.

The aquarium has adopted the turtle which is now recovering.

Blue Reef's Jenna MacFarlane said: ''We received a phone call at the weekend from the couple who said they had gone out for a lunchtime walk and came across the turtle on the beach.

''We advised them to wrap the turtle in a moist towel, put him in a bucket and bring him down to the aquarium so that we could examine him properly.

''When he arrived, one of our aquarists gave him a thorough health check and put him into a holding tank in our quarantine area, where he will stay until he is fully recovered from his ordeal.

''There are no obvious signs of injury and there is no way of knowing for how long he had been left on the beach, however if he hadn't been discovered by the couple then he would almost certainly have died.

''As a freshwater species he would not have survived in the seawater and a combination of cold, dehydration and the unwanted attentions of dogs and even seagulls would have proved fatal.''

The yellow-bellied slider is native to the south eastern United States.

It is found in a variety of habitats, including slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshes, wetlands and ponds and can live for 30 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity.

Ms MacFarlane said the turtle had probably been dumped by its owners after they were unable to look after it.

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She said: ''Unfortunately turtles and terrapins are one of the most common pets that get abandoned by their owners.

''People aren't prepared for how big they grow and also for how long they can live.

''However there can be no excuse for just abandoning them to their fate.''