A father has spoken of his ‘shock and disgust’ after finding a terrapin daubed with right-wing graffiti in a Sussex park.
Nick Leonard, a chef, was walking with his one-year-old daughter in St Leonards on Tuesday, August 15 when he spotted the unusual animal in a grassy area near a pond at the northern end of St Leonards Gardens .
He said the animal’s shell appears to be daubed with a crudely-drawn St George’s Cross and the letters EDL – seemingly a reference to the English Defence League, a far-right nationalist group.
Mr Leonard said: “I’ve been taking my daughter there around once a week since she was born and it’s not something you expect to see.
“I don’t know if someone has let it loose there or if it’s got out of someone’s home but if its supposed to be a joke then it’s not a funny one.
“If it’s children, they need to be told this isn’t acceptable and if it’s an adult, well then they should definitely know better. It says a lot about someone, that they would do that to an animal.
“I am shocked and disgusted and frankly think the person behind it should be found.”
Mr Leonard originally identified the animal as a tortoise but after further inquiries by Hastings Borough Council, which is responsible for maintaining the park, it appears the animal is actually a red-eared terrapin.
In a bizarre twist the species is considered an invasive species – animals which can potentially cause serious damage to the native environment and are illegal to release into the wild.
Had it been a tortoise the animal could have been taken into the care of the RSPCA but due to rules designed to prevent the spread of invasive species the council is not able to remove it from the park.
Due to these rules the council’s policy is to leave the animal in the pond until the end of its natural lifespan – which can stretch for up to 30 years in normal circumstances.