Tiny Turtle born at Sea Life Centre in Birmingham
One of the tiny turtle born at Sea Life Centre in Birmingham

Two tiny new-born turtles are receiving specialist care after their surprise appearance at a UK visitor aquarium.

Staff at the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham said they had no idea that one of their Roti Island snake-necked turtles had laid eggs.

Among the world's rarest and most endangered species, the turtles appeared without warning after their mother is thought to have hidden her eggs in the sand at the bottom of her tank, said curator Graham Burrows.

"The first we knew of it was when we came in one morning and found these two youngsters swimming around," he said.

The one-week-old turtles are being fed a diet of bloodworm and shrimp. They go on display to the public next week.

The birth of the two turtles brings the total captive population to 250 worldwide.

"That's more than the population left in the wild," Burrows said.

"The species is confined to a tiny area in the middle of the small island of Roti, in Indonesia, and was hunted almost to extinction for the pet trade.

"It has been protected since 2001, and with luck the population will recover.

"If it doesn't, captive reared animals like our two new arrivals could be used for reintroduction to give the species a vital last lifeline."

Last month, two passengers were arrested after an estimated 10,000 baby sea turtles were found hidden in their luggage at Kolkata's Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport.

Nearly all species of sea turtle are classed as endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

Increasing pollution, drainage of wetlands and commercial development have destroyed turtle habitats and nesting sites, leaving some threatened with extinction.

The WWF says that turtle numbers have fallen due to poaching, and they are slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells.