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NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Three creatures that some people thought might be alligators seen last month near the Isahaya Bay reservoir in Nagasaki Prefecture are most likely soft-shell turtles, a native aquatic species, prefectural officials said.

They said photos of the creatures swimming in the bay, with just their eyes and nostrils protruding from the water’s surface, were shown to multiple experts for identification.

While alligators and other crocodilian species are covered in scales, the photos showed no indication these animals had any. Also, the distance between the creatures’ eyes and nostrils was only about 3 cm — too short for them to be crocodilians.

Eggshells from hatched soft-shell turtles, known in Japan as “suppon,” were also found in the area of the sighting, a marshland between landfill and the reservoir.

Suppon are considered a delicacy, and Isahaya has many restaurants featuring the cuisine.

The three creatures were seen and photographed by six members of a bioassessment team on July 23 during a survey.

The team members said the animals were up to 1 meter long, — far bigger than any known suppon — leading the Nagasaki and Isahaya governments to issue calls for local residents to stay alert.

To calm the public, prefectural officials said Wednesday they plan to keep in place 14 traps laid out in the area of the sighting for the time being. But they said even if the creatures are crocodilians, they would be too small to pose immediate danger to people.

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