Horror in a half shell!


We’re bracing for an influx of terrapins as the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is released on Friday, 17 October.

Popular films have always escalated demands for unusual pets – when the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film was released in the 1990s this led to a craze for buying terrapins.


Exotic pets have specialist needs

Terrapins © RSPCAMany ill-informed people snapped up the reptiles and when owners realised that the 50p-sized baby animals grow to the size of a dinner plate and have specialist dietary and accommodation needs some couldn’t cope and simply dumped their pets.

Our animal centres and other rescues were inundated and terrapins were even spotted in public ponds around the country after large numbers were abandoned or given up.

Last year we received 1,281 calls relating to the reptiles. The number of exotics being collected by us has increased so much that we have trained 12 Inspectorate Exotics Officers.

Senior scientific officer Nicola White said:

“Many people bought turtles in the late 80s when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular, which led to a large number of unwanted terrapins being abandoned when they grew too large or were more difficult to look after than expected.  We are bracing ourselves for a similar trend once again.


“Terrapins are complicated animals to care for and can also carry bacteria such as Salmonella.  We would discourage anyone from buying any pet on a whim and strongly urge people to think carefully first before buying an exotic pet.


“Releasing unwanted exotic pets into the wild is cruel and illegal.  Most exotic pets are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild in Britain and non-native species could pose a serious threat to our native wildlife.  It is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) to release, or to allow to escape, any species that are not normally native to the UK. “

Pet fads fueled by popular films

It’s not just terrapins that have been subject to pet fads.

  • After the release of the Harry Potter films in the 2000s, we received inquiries from parents looking to rehome owls.
  • After the release of Finding Nemo in 2003, pet shops and breeders reported a 60 per cent rise in sales of clown fish.
  • More recently we saw a 191 per cent  rise in the number of calls about meerkats from 2009 to 2010 following the Compare the Meerkat adverts.

Nicola added:

“Sadly many owners who buy exotic pets on impulse after seeing a film or TV show don’t find out how to care for the animals first.  When they then realise how much space and care the animal requires they can lose interest, or feel unable to care for them anymore. As a result  exotic pets are often abandoned, given up to animal rescue centres or released into the wild.”

It can be challenging to meet the needs of exotic pets. We would urge anyone considering an exotic pet to find out as much as possible about the animal’s needs and whether it is a realistic pet for you.

Read more in our blog post from campaigner Eloise – Resisting the T.U.R.T.L.E. power.