Although usually docile, alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii), native to freshwater habitats in the United States, are capable of delivering a powerful bite with their powerful jaws that can easily amputate fingers. As a result, they're categorized as an "animal designated as dangerous by Japanese law."

In addition to the potential danger factor, there's also their size and weight to consider. Males average 26 inches in shell length and weigh about 175 pounds, and can even exceed 220 pounds in some cases. As a result, although available in the exotic animal trade in some countries, they're not recommended as a pet for those who don't have considerable experience keeping aquatic turtles, not to mention the means to provide them with an adequate living environment through their adult lives.

However, one place where these turtles have a good home is at the 一般社団法人 ワニガメ生態研究所 Alligator Snapping Turtle Research Institute (official English: "The Biology and Breeding Laboratory of Alligator Snapping Turtles in Japan").

Director 荻野要 Kaname Ogino (@kanameogino) has devoted himself to taking care of them in this facility which he helped build from scratch. He consults with prefectural and municipal public health centers, police stations, and others about turtles needing protective care. The situation has become particularly critical since the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals was revised in 2019, barring members of the general public from owning them as pets.

"In the past, I considered returning alligator snapping turtles to their homeland, but received a reply from the U.S. that it was 'impossible to return them to the wild here" because of the bacteria indigenous to Japan."

Even if they are germless, they can't be (returned to the wild in the U.S.) because they would negatively influence the current ecosystem.

They said my options were to resell them to China or sell them to a zoo.

That's why I decided to protect and raise them here for life."

As an expert, Ogino is sometimes asked to comment on TV news programs. In such cases, he is often suspected of having done something untoward because of his appearance.

His physique, which is as strong as the turtles he provides for, combined with his fashion sense, apparently makes people wonder if he has a history of antisocial behavior. In fact, in a separate tweet, he jokes about TV staff repeatedly seeking to confirm that he indeed had no criminal record.

Perhaps tired of the continuous suspicions about his past, Ogino, posted a photo showing that, in spite of the way he looked, he was all soft inside...

"I don't hide a criminal record but sometimes I hide an adopted cat."

Reproduced with permission from 荻野要 Kaname Ogino (@kanameogino)

The little furbaby he had tucked away was his cat のの Nono. In addition to turtles, Ogino also cares for dogs and cats that he saved from disposal.

The contrast between his tough-looking appearance and his gentle protective nature suggested in the image made the tweet go viral, garnering over 188,000 likes at the time of writing, and eliciting comments such as:

  • "I love it! This selfie with his cat is so cool!"
  • "I laughed because it was so cute. I can feel your love for animals."
  • "Cats know where they are safe and secure!"
  • "I tend to judge people by their appearances, but this photo changed my impression of you altogether!"

The photo shows the love and care with which he treats the animals in his protection. Now people will stop peskering him with questions about his past ... or at least he hopes so!

By - Ben K.