The American Tortoise Rescue, a nonprofit founded in 1990 for the protection of all species of turtles and tortoises, is pleading with parents to fight the urge to get their children real turtles after watching the new Ninja turtle movie – and instead go with plastic toys. Here’s an open letter from the organization.
We’re asking you to save a turtle’s life and perhaps even your child’s.
In August, your children will be enjoying another edition of the extremely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. This will include a whole new generation of kids who missed the 2007 animated film. It’s fun and great entertainment.
But, we are writing this to ask for your help. Since the first movie was released in 1990, hundreds of thousands of live turtles, mostly water turtles called red eared sliders, were purchased for between $10 and $25 after each ninja movie was released. The result? Many, if not most, were dumped and even deliberately killed or flushed down the toilet. Remember people buying thousands of dogs that ended up in shelters after 101 Dalmatians came me out? Same problem.
Unfortunately, children do not realize that real turtles do not fly, perform stunts or do any of the exciting moves fictional movie turtles do. Parents, trying to please their children, purchased live turtles which ended up languishing in tanks. Or, when the kids realized after a few weeks that these were not ninja turtles, the turtles were dumped illegally into rivers and lakes as well as dumpsters, flushed down toilets or relinquished to shelters and overcrowded rescues. It’s estimated that 90 percent died. As an aside, zoos do not take turtles.
Turtles have been around for 200 million years and outlived the dinosaur. Is this the way we want to treat our precious wildlife? Most of these turtles are taken out of the wild and sold to pet stores, breeders and mercados for profit.
Here’s the bigger problem. Turtles carry salmonella which can make a child very, very sick and can even kill them. That’s why turtles less than four inches were banned from sale in the U.S. in 1974 and still are…tiny turtles easily fit into a child’s mouth. Children also tend to touch the water and don’t wash their hands. It’s an ugly problem. A nine month old baby in Los Angeles got salmonella meningitis from a turtle after its parents touched it and then held the baby. We do not recommend live turtles or tortoises for children under 13 because of salmonella exposure and because the kids lose interest almost immediately.
What can you do to help? Buy Ninja action figures and toys instead of live turtles and save a turtle’s life, and perhaps even your child’s.
Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, Co-founders
American Tortoise Rescue
According to the CDC, hundreds of people have become ill in several nationwide salmonella outbreaks linked to small turtles. Most victims are children under 5 years old.
Salmonella infections can result from having contact with reptile or amphibian environments, including the water from containers or aquariums where they live.
So how do people get Salmonella infections from reptiles and amphibians?
Here’s how the CDC explains it: Reptiles and amphibians might have Salmonella germs on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, aquariums, terrariums, the water reptiles and amphibians live or swim in, and other containers that house them. Anything that reptiles and amphibians touch should be considered possibly contaminated with Salmonella. When you touch reptiles and amphibians, the germs can get on your hands or clothing. It is important to wash your hands immediately after touching animals, or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or aquariums, because the germs on your hands can easily spread to other people or things.
I have heard about turtles carrying salmonella germs but this makes a good argument to avoid getting them as pets. I will stick with the toys. Have you avoided turtles as pets or is you’ve had them as pets, what steps did you take to avoid family members from getting sick?