Thursday, 3 August 2017

Dumping turtles (red eared sliders) in Lake Merritt kills reptiles, trashes waterway - via Herp Digest

by Kimberly Veklerov, 7/12/17, San Francisco Chronicle

A popular breed of invasive turtles dumped in Lake Merritt and its tributaries are dying in the brackish water and adding to the growing problem of waste in Oakland’s waterways.

Despite signage warning that the water is a “slow death,” not a glorious turtle retirement kingdom some pet owners seem to think it is, volunteer cleaning crews regularly fish out decomposing red-eared sliders amid heaps of litter.

James Robinson, executive director of the Lake Merritt Institute, a nonprofit that removes trash from the water, said the releasing of turtles is an ongoing problem. People who buy them at pet stores don’t seem to realize they can live upward of 50 years, he said.

“At some point, your kids grow up and don’t take care of Timmy the Turtle anymore,” Robinson said. “People just outgrow them and then they’re like, ‘Be free, turtle, go be home.’ And they throw it into the equivalent of a lake of acid.”

The red-eared slider needs fresh water to survive. In Lake Merritt, a tidal slough where salt water from the bay meets freshwater from creeks and storm drains, the turtles undergo an osmotic process that leads to dehydration or complete organ failure, Robinson said.

A few might survive, but they become weakened by the saline water, he said.

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