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‘Ninja Turtles’ shouldn’t be reason to adopt turtles

PHOENIX — With “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” topping the box office, animal conservation groups are worried it might cause people to adopt pets they’re not ready for.

Whenever animal-centric movies are released, biologist Audrey Owens with the Arizona Game and Fish Department said they see a spike in adoption demand for those animals.

“We see a spike in people interested in adopting the animals that are featured in the movies without thinking (or) without giving a whole lot of thought to how much care it takes,” said Owens.

Now the department said its concerned about people wanting to adopt or buy turtles, which Owens said don’t generally make great pets.

“They see them when they’re little and they’re cute, not realizing that they do get large, and they actually don’t make very good pets,” she said. “They’re not cuddly, you can’t hold them, they do bite (and) you need to change their water on a daily basis.”

Often people adopt turtles and realize soon after the amount of work needed to take care of them, then try to get rid of them by releasing them into the wild.

“People end up realizing how much it costs and how much it requires to actually take care of them, and so they end up releasing them into urban ponds,” Owens said. “So the Game and Fish Department has been working with the Phoenix Zoo and the Phoenix Herpetological Society every year for the past nine years to actually remove all of the non-native turtles that live in the pond in front of the Phoenix Zoo.”

The pond in front of the Phoenix Zoo has become a bit of a hotspot for turtle dumping Owens said, and in nine years she said they have caught about 850 turtles there.

Owens said releasing wild turtles can be dangerous to the ecosystem and threaten other native species, and if people are ever in need of getting rid of an unwanted turtle, they should contact a reptile sanctuary.

If people are set on adopting a reptile, Owens said there are many other easier and more pet-friendly options, including tortoises.

“They can actually live outside in your backyard — a completely enclosed backyard — (with) some grass patches,” she said. “They can actually be fairly easy to take care of.”

Owens said people should always consider the responsibility of owning a pet before adopting or purchasing one. She added the Arizona Game and Fish Department always has tortoises ready for adoption and people can find out more about adopting a tortoise here.