Aquatic turtles are popular as pets, but many people do not gather the necessary information before taking them home, and this can lead to serious problems.
Turtles known as “red-eared sliders” have become the star of many homes in the last ten years. They are available in pet stores and are sold without warning the excited new owners about their needs. These turtles have turned into very valued and accepted pets because they move slowly outside the water, they are small when young, they have a comfortable relationship with humans and they are –supposedly- easy to take care of. Of course, this is very different in reality. These animals grow –a lot-, they make messes and smell badly.
If new owners do not have the necessary information, they will likely place aquatic turtles in tanks that are too small and not appropriate for them. Of course, most of these tanks include a marvellous island with a palm tree on it. If the owner does not know how often to change the water, whether he should add an anti-chlorine product or what type of food to give his new pet, problems will arise. And the pet will become a nuisance, cause difficulties within the family and finally and unfortunately the animal will have to be gotten rid of.
The owner will become tired of cleaning the tank and the palm tree and will be overwhelmed by the growing size of his pet (which, by the way, can reach a length of 30-40 centimetres) and decide that the river that flows by his parents’ town should be its new home. He probably has not stopped to think if it is possible for his turtle to survive, nor about the environmental problems that it may cause. This harmless turtle can turn into a dangerous beast that preys on other animals, since it competes with Spanish native turtles, which it displaces.
Another important consideration is that these animals can be natural hosts for Salmonella, and are considered a source for human Salmonella infections.
Adults must be careful to teach their children to wash their hands after handling or playing with them. Aquatic turtle tanks should be out of the reach of small children.
If you decide to get one of these animals for your home, you should consult a veterinary surgeon specialized in exotic animals about its needs. He will help you decide the pros and cons of the new purchase, the nutritional and environmental needs of your pet and, what is maybe more important, how to respect a live being, because a life is always a life, independently of the container it comes in or of the price you have paid for it.
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Colegio Oficial de Veterinarios de Alicante
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