Turtles would never do it

One of the most common animals as pets classified as exotic in our society is the turtle. This reptile may attract us due to its supposed small and manageable size as well as its apparent lack of care, but this is a mistaken belief. «It is a very accessible and cheap animal, and it is regularly offered in stores without taking into account that they are very long-lived, they can live up to 35 years, and that they have very high maintenance requirements in terms of space and means to have them well,” explains Joaquín Laliena, veterinarian at the Nakuru Veterinary Center in Logroño.

Of course, this is often not true. “Although they are very tough animals that survive in conditions that are not adequate, just because they live does not mean that we are giving them a decent life,” warns Joaquín Laliena. «People are not aware of what they live for or the size they reach or the care they require, which is curious because nowadays, at the click of a mouse, on the internet, you have the characteristics of all the species. Twenty years ago you had to buy a book,” reflects the veterinarian. And it is not strange for a person to come to the consultation and happily explain the case of his turtle: “This is one of the green ones, it doesn’t grow.” «People continue to believe in the myth that if you don’t give them space they won’t grow, just like if you can feed them only shrimp, which is not the basis of their diet, just a complement. It’s like if you keep a dog eating bread all its life, it will have very high nutritional deficiencies,” exemplifies Joaquín Laliena.

Joaquín Laliena | Nakuru Veterinary Center

“It is an animal that is offered in stores without taking into account that they can live 35 years”

“People have to be aware that releasing a turtle anywhere is abandonment”

Perhaps because of their calm nature and slow movements, people think that turtles have very few vital needs, which would allow neglect, but we must be aware that any living being that depends on us requires specific and sufficient attention. «The problem, especially with water turtles, in addition to the fact that they need contact with water because they constantly need hydration for their skin, so they must be permanently in an aquatic environment, is that families buy a turtle because they do not have the responsibility of a dog or a cat, and after three years the child no longer takes care of it, the parents must take care of it and the animal stays at home as the forgotten one, which has led to abandoning them in ponds, ponds and rivers and many species have displaced the native ones, such as the European and leper pond turtle found in La Rioja,” reports Laliena.

Comparison between a young turtle and an adult one.

Diego Marín A.

Many of these invasive turtles are those from Florida, which are larger and more aggressive and end up dominating the native ones, which are already in danger of extinction. «People are becoming aware that releasing a turtle anywhere is abandonment and that native species are threatened by human and external factors like this. And they may not survive, so they are condemning their beloved pet,” says Laliena.

And what are the options? The first, responsibility, if you can’t or don’t want to take care of an animal until the end, don’t have it. Including a turtle. If the mistake has already been made, it is best to look for a private pond with similar animals or go to a wildlife recovery center, although there, if it is on the current list of invasive exotic species, it must be euthanized. “You have to be responsible and not buy these animals if they cannot be well cared for,” advises Laliena.

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