Shocked family finds pet turtle abandoned on Auckland beach

An Auckland family could barely believe their eyes this week, when they stumbled on a turtle at an Auckland beach.

The freshwater critter is one of many turtles showing up in the wild after being abandoned by their owners.

It's a place no freshwater turtle wants to be. But somehow, one little turtle found himself stuck at Howick Beach in suburban Auckland this week.

"I thought, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, and I shouted, 'Oh my gosh, there's a turtle!'" says Kym Pinhey.

The Pinhey family had to play turtle rescuers after stumbling on the critter during a beach trip. They think he was washed down a storm water drain after heavy rain.

Unfortunately, it turns out, he's not the only one roaming free.

"At the moment I'm getting turtles coming in almost every day," says Donna Moot from Turtle Rescue Christchurch.

Ms Moot is an experienced turtle rescuer; she currently has 90 at her home in Christchurch. She's been overrun as owners get sick of the pets and dump them in local waterways.

They're an invasive species that destroys native flora and fauna, and even likes to eat the eggs of native birds. Also the warmer weather suits them.

"With the warming temperatures, they're surviving out there a bit longer," says Ms Moot. "In the past they might have got pneumonia, might have got ill, might have died. Now, they're not."

What many people don't realise is that a turtle can be a lifelong commitment - long neck turtles can live as long as 70 years, that's five times the lifespan of the average dog.

The extent of the problem has shocked the Pinheys.

"You wouldn't throw your child away in the rubbish, or down the drain, so why would you throw a pet or a family member down there?" says Ms Pinhey

Their turtle has been given the name "Wicky". Now they've got to decide whether to keep him.

"I've always wanted a turtle," says young Joshua Pinhey. "It's a creature I've always wanted, but if he needs to go somewhere else, then we'll let him go somewhere else, because we need to [do] what's best for him."