Illegal dumping of turtles set to rise

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According to the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, the new fear for 2012 is the returning issue of turtles and terrapins being illegally dumped in British waterways.

The Countryside and Right of Way Act 200 states that: "People who dump non-native species such as Green iguanas, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs or red-eared terrapins in the wild be arrested and prosecuted under the Act".

Reason then indeed for ensuring that if the craze of the New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film due out next year makes your child scream for a pet 'turtle', you may consider it very seriously before giving this new creature a home.

When the turtles first hit our screens back in 1988 with a TV series on Nickelodeon, the craze caught on quickly with films and merchandising flooding the market, and so the problems began with unwanted pets being bought, neglected then dumped.

The picture above shows a Red-eared terrapin being caught and removed from Foremark Reservoir and Nature Reserve near Ticknall, Derbyshire.

Not only cruel to the species, but also a problem to the health of humans with the turtles spreading diseases such as salmonella, not to mention the destruction caused to other wildlife with the terrapins eating native fish, insects, frogspawn, tadpoles and even ducklings.

250,000 terrapins a year were being imported to Britain with children buying hatchlings for a few pounds, however, the damage caused by dumped pets was so great that a ban on trade in the most popular species, the Red-eared terrapin, was introduced by the European Union in 1997.

At the PAW Open Seminar, held on 2 March 2011, Defra Minister Richard Benyon launched the 2011 UK wildlife crime priorities. These priorities were agreed by a high level group of Government and enforcement officials, following discussion of the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s strategic assessment of wildlife crime in the UK and Operation RAMP – a global Interpol operation targeting the illegal trade of reptiles and amphibians – has been hailed a success!

Mr Benyon said: "Most terrapin owners are responsible. However, a minority don’t realise the consequences of releasing them."

More information on the trade of these terrapins will come to light in a meeting scheduled for April 15, 2011 to address the issue.