Brits urged to think twice before buying terrapins as Sea Life centres are flooded with requests to re-home unwanted Christmas gifts.
With aquariums at capacity, owners are taking extreme and unthinkable measures to dispose of their reptiles with terrapins believed to be flushed down UK toilets every year, say bosses at Sea Life Manchester.
Such is the extent of the problem that public ponds, canals and lakes are now home to large numbers of terrapins, with sightings of baby terrapins hatching in summer months, all populated by those unwanted pets that have survived the journey through Britain’s sewerage plants.
Recent EU Invasive Alien Species Regulations now prohibit aquariums from taking in pet terrapins, nor from moving terrapin stock to other aquariums. It is illegal to release terrapins into the wild in the UK – legislative efforts to put a stop to people releasing, re-selling or rehoming unwanted pets playing true to the adage, ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ and in terrapin terms life equates to 50 years.
The popularity of pet terrapins witnesses a rise each time hit children’s films such as Finding Nemo and A Turtle’s Tale are released.
Speaking on the subject, Alan Kwan, Lead Curator at Sea Life Manchester said: “People wrongly assume that terrapins are going to be easy to care for. What they don’t realise is they grow from 3cm in length (hand-sized) to 30cm in length (large dinner plate) and live between 30-50 years.
“Global warming and the resulting rise in temperatures across British waterways is leading to abandoned terrapins breeding and growing in population. Native to Florida, this alien predatory reptile is having a damaging effect on British pondlife and waterfowl with fish, frog, frogspawn and ducklings falling prey.”
The advice from Sea Life Manchester is to think twice before buying a terrapin as a family pet, and a reminder that it is illegal to release terrapins into the wild in the UK.