I’m really liking this Die Hard II remake.

There are always a lot of fears associated with air travel, from the unlikely situation of lightning striking a wing to the more rational fear of a crime boss putting a crate of vipers onboard in order to kill a key witness in their murder trial.

But probably no one aboard a flight from Tokyo to Okinawa on 24 September was prepared for this announcement from the captain prior to take-off:

“I’ve just gotten word that a turtle has intruded on the runway we were to take off from… just now on the runway… so we have to stop temporarily….”

The incident took place on Runway A of Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture at about 11:30 a.m. and the removal of the wayward reptile reportedly delayed the flight by about 10 minutes. Despite the disruption, crew and passengers were happy that little guy was out of harm’s way.

▼ A news report on the turtle disturbance.

While other animals such as cats have been known to wander onto the tarmac from time to time, even a veteran pilot commented that this was the first time to see a turtle out there. It was taken into custody by airport officials and found to be about 30 centimeters (12 inches) long and weighed about two kilograms (4.4 pounds).

To identify what kind of turtle this was, media contacted animal expert Tsuyoshi Shirawa, whose fame grew recently when he successfully found the runaway python that frightened a neighborhood in Yokohama for about a month.

▼ Shirawa’s confident “OK” gesture after finding the snake became something of a meme.

Shirawa said that this turtle was a red-eared slider, a species native to the southern part of North America, but spread around the world because of its popularity as a pet. It is considered one of the most invasive species in the world and apparently has now begun invading airports too.

Shirawa suspects that while many red-eared sliders were abandoned in the wild by owners, the fact that there are no homes near the airport suggests that this one was probably born in one of the nearby rivers and simply wandered out a little further than usual.

A pilot who was interviewed by ANN News, however, wondered if it came from a different source: “Because the cargo area is near there, I wonder if it was in someone’s luggage, escaped, and then walked out onto the runway.”

Whatever the truth is behind this tiny terrapin’s trek, it seems that people abandoning animals was ultimately to blame. So next time you consider acquiring a pet, think long and hard about the long-term care that’s involved and the impact that failing to live up to it might have on the aviation industry.

Source: Ashahi Shimbun, TV Asahi
Top image: Pakutaso
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