With another “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie set to hit theaters this week, a Malibu-based tortoise rescue organization urged parents today to refrain from buying live turtles for children impressed by the heroics of the film’s fictional “heroes in a half-shell.”
The founders of American Tortoise Rescue said purchases of pet turtles surged following the release of the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film in 1990, but the turtles are often abandoned when their novelty wears off.
“Unfortunately, children do not realize that real turtles do not fly, perform stunts or do any of the exciting moves fictional movie turtles do,” American Tortoise Rescue founders Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson wrote in an open letter to moviegoers. “Parents, trying to please their children, purchase live turtles which end up languishing in tanks. … Later, the turtles are dumped illegally into rivers and lakes as well as dumpsters, flushed down toilets or relinquished to shelters or overcrowded rescues.”
Tellem and Thompson also said Salmonella-carrying turtles pose an additional risk to young children and infants when kept at home.
“We do not recommend live turtles or tortoises for children under 13 because of Salmonella exposure and because younger children lose interest almost immediately,” Tellem and Marshall wrote.
Peter Messinger, who owns The Aquarium store in Culver City, said that while he expects to see more people asking for turtles, many will be scared off after learning the costs of turtle ownership.
“People will come in and ask for them, probably more because of the movie,” Messinger said. “If you really tell people exactly what they need to take care of a turtle, they don’t buy them.”
Messinger said turtles require a large aquarium as well as a proper filter, heater and light.
“By the time you do all of that, you are spending $500-600 easily,” Messinger said.
According to Messinger, many parents purchase turtles in downtown Los Angeles for as little as $5 and do not realize the additional costs and care requirements for the animal.
“There are much better, much easier pets than a turtle and this comes from somebody who has had turtles my whole life,” said Messinger.
American Tortoise Rescue recommended that instead of purchasing a live turtle, parents should instead buy turtle action figures and toys for their children.
More information on turtle ownership and turtle rescues can be found at www.tortoise.com.