‘Cruel’ owners are urged not to buy pets they cannot look after a terrapin was found dead.
A 12-inch terrapin was found on Ditchling Common by Anne King from Burgess Hill last week.
Releasing unwanted exotic pets into the wild is cruel and illegal
“I was walking my dogs on Ditchling Common, and somebody said ‘be careful there’s a dead tortoise up there’. My dogs went up to it, it’s definitely dead,” she said.
Anne originally feared the reptile was tortoise Dirty Gertie, who went missing from a Lindfield home as reported in the Middy.
But on inspection a friend told Anne it is a terrapin, not a tortoise.
“It’s the second she’s seen dead here,” Anne said.
“I wouldn’t have thought it could walk from Lindfield though.”
The RSPCA explained it could be the case of an abandoned pet.
A spokesman said: “Sadly many owners who buy exotic pets on impulse after seeing a film or TV show don’t find out how to care for the animals first. When they then realise how much space and care the animal requires they can lose interest, or feel unable to care for them anymore. As a result exotic pets are often abandoned, given up to animal rescue centres or released into the wild.”
Many people bought turtles in the late 80s when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular, which led to many unwanted terrapins being abandoned when they grew too large or were more difficult to look after than expected.
“We are bracing ourselves for a similar trend once again,” the RSPCA spokesman added.
“Terrapins are complicated animals to care for and can also carry bacteria such as Salmonella. We would discourage anyone from buying any pet on a whim and strongly urge people to think carefully first before buying an exotic pet.
“Releasing unwanted exotic pets into the wild is cruel and illegal. Most exotic pets are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild in Britain and non-native species could pose a serious threat to our native wildlife.”
It is illegal to release any species not native to the UK.
East Sussex County Council confirmed it is aware of terrapins in the pond at Ditchling Common, and discourage dumping ‘alien species’ there.
Another concerned dog walker told the Middy ‘viscous’ terrapins at Ditchling Common could ‘take your hand off’.