Despite the ban, the online trade in small turtles in the United States was found to be flourishing

hatchling turtles

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A team of researchers at the University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with a colleague at the University of Richmond, has found that despite laws prohibiting the sale of hatchling turtles, there is a thriving online market for them in the United States. open access journal PLOS Onethe group describes their investigation of websites that sell turtles and whether such websites followed federal regulations.

Back in the 1960s and early 70s, turtles became popular as pets in the United States. Previous research has shown that as many as 4% of all homes had at least one turtle, and that most of the turtles sold at the time were hatchlings. This arrangement meant that sellers did not have to feed the turtles for very long and buyers had them as long as possible.

But as turtles became more popular, the medical community began to see many cases of disease transmission from turtles to their hosts – chief among them salmonellosis, which sickened children. That led officials in the United States to ban the sale of small turtles. In this new effort, the researchers wondered whether the ban on such sales prevents the sale of hatchlings, the most important carriers of infection, in the United States. To find out, they began searching the Internet for places to buy turtles.

They found 16 websites that were actively engaged in selling turtles that were less than four inches in size. They also note that half of these sites failed to warn buyers of the disease risks of buying such turtles or failed to mention the laws governing their sale.

The researchers conclude that there is a thriving online pet trade involving hatchling turtles in the United States due to a number of factors. The first is the continued popularity of turtles as pets, despite the dangers involved. The second is the ad hoc enforcement of the sale of hatchlings. They also note that enforcement of such rules is likely to be a low priority among officials due to much more pressing wildlife issues, such as the sale of endangered or dangerous animals.

More information:
Lauren E. Montague et al, Online sale of baby turtles circumvents US public health regulations, PLUS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278443

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Citation: Despite ban, small turtle online trade booms in US (2022, December 27) Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-small-turtle-online-pet -flourishing .html

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