April 3, 2017
Three yellow bellied slider turtles were cruelly abandoned by a callous member of the public on the door step of Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium this week.
A man dumped a bucket with the three tiny turtles in it at the aquarium entrance, claiming he had found them locally and left quickly before the animal staff could talk to him to explain that the aquarium cannot accept any more freshwater turtles or terrapins. The three turtles, measuring around 12cm long, were left in a bucket of filthy water and the aquarists at the aquarium checked their health before placing them into clean water.
It has been illegal for any EU zoo or aquarium to accept additional freshwater turtles since 2015, under the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulations. Any zoos or aquariums that breed or acquire these and many other commonly kept terrapins & turtles can face prosecution under the legislation. Only a small number of limited permits are granted to re-home these animals under strict rules.
This placed the Newquay aquarium in the unenviable position of either finding a legal home for these tiny turtles or being forced to have them put to sleep. The aquarium also potentially faced prosecution if they were not removed from the premises. Against all odds the turtles were found a new home.
Yellow bellied sliders Trachemys scripta scripta and their close relatives red eared terrapins have been banned as being invasive species. Coming from North America they can survive winters in parts of the EU and pose a threat to native wildlife if released or escaped into the wild.
Steve Matchett, Curator at Blue Reef Aquarium said “We currently have a small group of fresh water turtles and terrapins that include this species, but even if we did have the room for more, we cannot re-home them. It saddens me to say that we were strongly advised that we would have to have the turtles euthanized as we cannot accept any of these animals under the new legislation.” The regulations were brought in to protect EU wildlife from alien species that can spread diseases and out-compete native wildlife.
“Pet owners often expect zoos and aquariums to take their unwanted turtles when they no longer wish to care for them and it is now a common problem for all zoos, aquariums and rescue centres that if we did take them in we can face legal action. What many people don’t realise is that they can live for up to 25 years and get quite large. Reptiles are a long term commitment and people need to be far more responsible as pet owners.”
This story had an unexpected good turn of events for the turtles. The RSPCA were contacted to see if they could help find a home. After an extensive UK search they managed to find a rescue centre that had three spaces left on their permit to take these turtles.
The rescue centre that has re-homed the turtles is now full and wishes to remain anonymous as they cannot legally help with more turtles.
Issued by Blue Reef Aquarium. For more information please contact Melissa Hallam or Steve Matchett on 01637 878134.