Australian penny turtles are as real as unicorns so be careful before you shell out for one

Australian penny turtles are as real as unicorns so be careful before you shell out for one

Just like teacup pigs and unicorns, there are no such things as Australian penny turtles.

That’s the message NT Parks and Wildlife ranger Clare Pearce tries to get through to the « dismaying large amount of people » who ask her how and where to get one.

« They sound cute and cuddly but they actually don’t exist, » she said.

She said the « penny turtles » many people believed they were buying were in fact hatchling freshwater turtles.

« Given the right conditions their growth is quite rapid and they go from being ‘penny turtles’ to fairly large critters within a couple of years.

« They will outgrow most aquariums or tanks within a couple of years and either need a bigger tank or a pond — and they’ll definitely need a pond by the time they’re five or six years old. »

Another thing some people fail to take into account when buying a pet turtle is that many species have long lifespans.

A freshwater turtle hatchling on a computer desk next to a computer mouse to show how small it  is.

« Depending on the species, you could be looking at anywhere from 20 to 25 and 40 years old, » Ms Pearce said.

« They’re a bit like the long-term commitment of keeping a cockatoo as a pet. »

Don’t release pet turtles

Sometimes because of their rapid growth, sometimes because of their longevity, turtles are often given up by their owners.

Ms Pearce said while most unwanted pets ended up on the « second-hand turtle market », some were released into the wild.

She said while it might be tempting to put native animals back into their native habitat, the reality was pet turtles rarely survived when released.

A hand holds a northern red-faced turtle with a clear chip taken out of its shell behind its head.

« They’ve been in captivity their entire lives so they don’t know how to find tucker.

« And they also don’t know what a predator is, so they’re likely to end up as dinner for a hungry predator. »

Quiet, clean and easy pets

Unlike a dog a pet turtle will not greet you at the door when you get home from work.

But Ms Pearce said there were many benefits to keeping a turtle as a pet.

« You’ve got yourself a pet that is appropriate to your environment as opposed to a cat that might get out and go munching on a few birds and the likes, » she said.

« They don’t need walking and they don’t bark and they don’t leave poo all over the ground.

« They’re actually quite easy pets to have around, they just have some specific requirements to stay healthy. »