• 435-644-2001 • www.bestfriends.org
Before Adopting a Turtle or Tortoise
By Susan Tellem
Keeping tortoises (and turtles) as pets
is growing by leaps and bounds in the
U.S. and elsewhere. At the same time,
the number of turtles and tortoises in the
wild is decreasing significantly. So what’s
a turtle lover to do if he or she wants to
add one to the household menagerie?
First, learn everything you can about the
particular type of tortoise or turtle you are
thinking about getting. Second, adopt
– don’t buy. There are a number of good
rescue groups all around the country.
Meant to Be Wild
Turtles suffer injuries and stress from violent capture from the wild, usually done with
barbaric hooks or traps. During transportation from the forest to pet stores, turtles and
tortoises are piled on top of each other in cramped, cold, soggy burlap bags. They are
offered for sale at pet stores, markets and reptile shows and on street corners. Many live
the rest of their lives in small tanks, a miserable existence for such a wild creature.
Habitat destruction, live markets where turtles are sold for food, and international trade
in exotic animals have led to a stunning decline in these gentle creatures. Now, they are
threatened or endangered all over the world. Although these animals have been on the
earth for more than 200 million years, it is estimated that their numbers have declined
drastically in just the past 50 years. Scientists claim that we will be lucky to have 50
more years before turtles and tortoises are extinct.
Special Care Required
Turtles and tortoises are wild animals that pose particular challenges and are more likely
to become ill or even die after being purchased as pets. These reptiles can carry sal-
monella, which is potentially fatal to kids, seniors and adults with compromised immune
If having a turtle or tortoise interests you, read up on their special care. The Internet is
full of good information, especially sites that re-home and adopt out turtles and tortoises.