It can be easy for animal lovers to be charmed by an aquatic turtle at the pet store. The two most common species are the red-eared slider and the yellow-bellied slider. This small animal, lying still on an artificial rock, doesn’t appear to require a great deal of attention. It seems like the perfect companion animal for someone who doesn’t have much time to take care of an animal, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Keeping a turtle healthy in captivity is not easy.
The specific needs of aquatic turtles
The problem is that people adopt these animals without being aware of all their specific needs. Keeping a turtle in captivity in your home is no easy task. Failing to provide the conditions vital to their well-being can seriously impact their health. An unsuitable environment, improper diet, lack of UV rays or poor hygiene can lead to a host of problems, including respiratory infections, shell softening and eye irritation (due to a high level of ammonia in the water, which can poison the animal over time).
Also, these turtles can grow to the size of a cantaloupe. To ensure optimal well-being, they need an aquarium that is at least 10 times their size, so the size of 10 cantaloupes. And since they are aren’t common domestic animals like cats and dogs, few veterinarians specialize in turtles, which can make it difficult to get them the basic care they need.
In addition to their unique needs, turtles can live 30 to 40 years. Adopting an aquatic turtle is a long-term commitment that shouldn’t be made lightly.
A problem for the SPCA
Given the above issues, owners seeking to give their turtle a better life sometimes decide to release them in nature. This should be avoided at all costs, as red-eared sliders are an invasive species. Also, if a turtle has always lived in captivity, it might not know how to survive on its own.
The Montreal SPCA is receiving more and more turtles that have been surrendered or found by citizens. Since there are few shelters that can accept them, it’s hard to find them an adoptive home.
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Jennie Lamanque is studying Arts and Humanities at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and writes for the Montreal SPCA. She does everything she can to reduce her ecological footprint as much as possible. She combines her love of animals and writing to encourage people to make more ethical choices.