A man walking his dog recently near Capena, in the countryside to the north of Rome, came across what appeared to be a strangely shaped stone. When the dog sniffed it the stone turned into a very aggressive alligator terrapin, a small example weighing 2 kg (they can grow to 200 kg) but none the less very dangerous. The alligator turtle is a native of Missouri in the United States where there are public notices that warn of the danger of these beasts. The man who found the terrapin says that a few days ago he saw a five-metre long snake which could have been a either a boa or an anaconda, in the same area.

It is illegal to keep many kinds of exotic animals, birds and reptiles in Italy, and it is thought that someone with a small private zoo may be releasing these examples from captivity rather than be fined for keeping them illegally.

The dog survived his unpleasant experience and the alligator terrapin has been taken to a specialist centre belonging to the World Wildlife Fund.