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Top Eleven Greedy Reasons Not to Buy a Wild Caught Turtle or Tortoise - Darrell Senneke
(Reprinted with permission from "The Bridge")  - updated 09-28-2003


Copyright © 2003 World Chelonian Trust. All rights reserved

I am often asked by people why they should buy CB (captive bred) rather than WC (wild caught) turtles and tortoises.  To that end I came up with the following reasons.

I intentionally am not belaboring the impact on populations depleted by removal of a non sustainable number of adult animals in low recruitment populations. While to many people that is a prime motivator, people that are sympathetic to such pressures being put on the wild populations do not need economic reasons.  These reasons were formulated to appeal to even those most ambivalent about conservation.  Nor am I addressing those species that possibly will only survive in captivity because of habitat loss, food market or traditional medicine pressures in their native habitat.  This paper addresses the WC pet trade.

1.   Vet bills - assuming that you do get a semi healthy tortoise or turtle it still will at a minimum need deworming and an examination, that is assuming you can find a qualified vet.
It is the difficulty in locating such a vet that prompted the writing of the article: Locating a Veterinarian on this site.

2.   The likelihood of getting an animal that has not been severely stressed is nil, at the best you are looking at a three year acclimation period before normal behavior is manifested.

3.   Any WC animal you get has almost certainly been exposed to other species. What might be a minor ailment in another species may kill your animal - fast.  An example is cited in the WCT care sheet for Geoemyda spengleri, it reads as follows, "
In holding areas and shipping, terrestrial chelonia are mixed with aquatics which carry  entamoeba. This then infects the terrestrials who have little resistance to it leading to mucosal GI erosions.  These erosions lead to bacteria in the bloodstream which leads to liver, lung, renal abscesses and subsequently death. "

4.   How about the possibility of importing an exotic disease with the WC animal? While there are very few known diseases carried by reptiles that can infect humans, there is no such thing as "zero chance", infection of native species in your collection with a pathogen that they have no resistance to is a very serious threat as well.   

5.   Because of stress factors wild caught animals are much more difficult to successfully breed, particularly in the first few years after purchase. 

6.   Exposing your captive bred animal to a wild caught cagemate effectively negates a lot of the advantages associated with being captive bred. There are numerous records of entire herds of breeding tortoises killed by the addition of a wild caught animal - AFTER quarantine

7.   Why allow anyone to make a profit off you?  Most breeders break even at best, wholesalers and importers are in the business of making money. This is not a hobby to them.

8.   MORE vet bills.........

9.   A wild caught collection requires much more or your time to take care of, rather than general husbandry you need to also become an expert at disease recognition and prevention.  How much is your time worth?

10.   Wild caught animals are often treated by the importers with various drugs. They use these to worm, fight disease, force egg laying, and generally minimize loss (the "shot gun" approach) while they are in his hands. He often concentrates on the short term results. The long term dangers of such a procedure are borne by the final purchaser.  Kidney failure and the like take many WC animals long after they are purchased. 

11.   Generally a breeder stands behind his or her animals, making themselves available even years later for help.  They generally have an emotional tie to the animal. Importers vary in their follow-up with customers but none have this emotional tie. 

The above are some things to think about, and maybe you will consider paying an extra 30 dollars or so and possibly waiting a few months to get a captive-bred animal.

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Vacaville, CA


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