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Abandoned turtles have been destroyed in the ponds of New York City and become unusually large

Central Park and other parks in New York City are invaded by annoying red-ear sliders – the most popular turtle in the American pet trade.

The turtles, originating from the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, are bred by turtle breeders and sold to wholesalers. Although more than 52 million were legally exported from the United States – mainly to China – many are sold illegally through pet stores, street vendors and websites.

The reptiles are designated by the IUCN as one of the world’s hundred worst invasive species, National Geographic reports. Pet owners will often realize that maintenance to care for the turtles can be overwhelming and the turtles dump into the wild.

The turtles, originating from the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, are bred by turtle breeders and sold to wholesalers. But a large proportion of them are sold illegally and then left in the wild

The turtles, originating from the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, are bred by turtle breeders and sold to wholesalers. But a large proportion of them are sold illegally and then left in the wild

Morningside Park Pond, located in Upper Manhattan, is mainly invaded by the turtles

Morningside Park Pond, located in Upper Manhattan, is mainly invaded by the turtles

Morningside Park Pond, located in Upper Manhattan, is mainly invaded by the turtles

Morningside Park Pond, located in Upper Manhattan, is mainly invaded by the turtles – named after the bright red spots on their heads that look like ears.

About 90 percent of the sliders in the pond were formally pets for New Yorkers, says Allen Salzberg, publisher of the HerpDigest newsletter. Salzberg is also an old member of the non-profit New York Turtle and Tortoise Society.

And New York is not the only place invaded by the turtles: red-cheeked gates are in every state and have even come to Hawaii.

About 90 percent of the sliders in the pond were formally pets for New Yorkers, says Allen Salzberg, publisher of the HerpDigest newsletter

About 90 percent of the sliders in the pond were formally pets for New Yorkers, says Allen Salzberg, publisher of the HerpDigest newsletter

About 90 percent of the sliders in the pond were formally pets for New Yorkers, says Allen Salzberg, publisher of the HerpDigest newsletter

The size of the turtle population is unknown, but users of the iNaturalist app have documented tens of thousands of verified red-tailed slider observations in almost all residential and urban regions in the US over the last decade.

Salzberg describes the turtles as ‘total optimists’, which explains why they have adapted so well to NYC.

“They get everything they have,” he added.

Red-cheeked sliders can live for months without food, slowing down their metabolism to save energy during difficult times. But the turtles grow enormously when their food source is in abundance.

Morningside Park has enough food for the turtles, which explains why so many people are overweight with unusually thick legs and neck.

Native species have suffered as a result of the scavengers of turtles, such as eating tendencies.

Various turtles exist side by side in the New York ecosystem, including: spotted turtles, musk turtles, map turtles, marsh turtles, wood turtles, painted turtles, eastern mud turtles, and diamondback marsh turtles.

Oriental painted turtles have been confronted with the invasion of the red-cheek sliders, with their populations in areas of the city declining.

“There is a pond in Central Park … called Turtle Pond,” Salzberg said. “I used to go to that pond and see quite a few painted turtles and snapping turtles. Now they are all sliders. My wife and I saw a painted turtle there two years ago. “

The waters in the Upper Manhattan pond are also wrong because they have an abundance of phytoplankton – microscopic plants that cause bright green algal blooms.

Morningside Park has enough food for the turtles, which explains why so many people are overweight with unusually thick legs and neck.

Morningside Park has enough food for the turtles, which explains why so many people are overweight with unusually thick legs and neck.

Morningside Park has enough food for the turtles, which explains why so many people are overweight with unusually thick legs and neck.

The phytoplankton feeds nutrients in animal waste and algal blooms then consume oxygen while blocking sunlight, harmful to creatures in the area.

Turtles in Morningside Park were mostly placed by their owners and in New York City the release of pets is prohibited by law.

Park rangers should guard parks 24/7 to enforce such a law, according to Christopher Joya. Joya is a secondary school teacher and works as a volunteer at Urban Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitation, a network of state-recognized wildlife rehabilitators based in New York City.

He had a student pick up a turtle from Prospect Park to find out that it would be almost impossible to take the reptile to a shelter because there is not enough room for them.

Joya kept the turtle and spent hundreds to buy a 50-liter tank. They called the turtle Peace.

Turtles in Morningside Park were mostly placed by their owners and in New York City the release of pets is prohibited by law.

Turtles in Morningside Park were mostly placed by their owners and in New York City the release of pets is prohibited by law.

Turtles in Morningside Park were mostly placed by their owners and in New York City the release of pets is prohibited by law.

Native species have suffered as a result of the scavengers of turtles, such as eating tendencies

Native species have suffered as a result of the scavengers of turtles, such as eating tendencies

Native species have suffered as a result of the scavengers of turtles, such as eating tendencies

There are health risks with owning red-cheek gates because they are sensitive to salmonella.

The US Food and Drug Administration adopted the ‘Four-inch Law’ in 1975, which prohibited the sale of turtles with shields less than four centimeters wide.

According to Salzberg, the height was determined because the FDA theorized that small children could not put whole baby turtles in their mouths.

The 1975 regulation limited the sale of turtles in pet stores, but underground pet stores in Chinatown in New York City continue to sell the young turtles illegally.

Street vendors in most districts where baby turtles and reptiles are for sale can even be found online. From 2020 there were at least 20 websites that they sold illegally under four centimeters wide.

There are health risks with owning red-cheek gates because they are sensitive to salmonella

There are health risks with owning red-cheek gates because they are sensitive to salmonella

There are health risks with owning red-cheek gates because they are sensitive to salmonella

“Young parents will walk through Chinatown with their child and the child will go, mama! Mom! Look at that cute little turtle! And before they know it, they have been tied to a pet for 50 to 60 years, “explained Salzberg.

Joya and Salzbeg are of the opinion that there is no perfect solution to reduce the red-head problem in the city, in addition to informing children about responsible pet ownership. There are Facebook groups dedicated to relocating turtles, but the supply is often greater than demand.

Joya’s last resort is human euthanasia.

“I’m sorry if this upset anyone, but …” Joya said. “Actually, scratch that. I’m not sorry. Because you should have done your research when you got the turtle in the first place. “

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