The RSPCA is appealing for information after a turtle with a severely swollen body was found abandoned in a Stoke-on-Trent park.

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The musk turtle was found in Hartshill Park on Wednesday (30 August). The member of the public who found the turtle contacted the RSPCA, who transferred the turtle to an exotics vet.

Examination by a vet has shown that the turtle is suffering from lymphoedema, thought to be as a result of being fed a poor diet. The turtle is being cared for by the vet and is responding well so far to treatment.

RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin said: “The poor turtle was found in their tank and it is clear that whoever left them there did so with the intention of abandoning them.

“The turtle looks in a terrible state as a result of their body becoming swollen and it is likely they have been suffering for some time, as the owner has failed to seek veterinary treatment for their condition.

“Reptiles are entirely reliant on their owner to provide the right care for the particular species, so it is important that people do thorough research before committing to getting one.”

Anyone who has any information about who abandoned the turtle should contact the RSPCA’s appeals line on 0300 123 8018.

Nicola White, the RSPCA’s exotics senior scientific officer, said: “This poor turtle is thought to have been fed an inappropriate diet, causing this swelling, and it is likely that they had been suffering for a while. It’s incredibly cruel to abandon an animal instead of getting the veterinary help it needs.

“Reptiles may look resilient and tough on the outside but they are completely reliant on their owners to provide heat, light, humidity, food and water – and can easily become poorly or suffer if these are not provided at the correct levels for the species.

“This is another example of why we’re extremely concerned about the number of abandoned reptiles the RSPCA are being called about. Last year we rescued 1,700 reptiles, many as a result of being abandoned.

“It can be tricky for a beginner owner to know exactly what to feed their reptile and to tell when their reptile is unwell, so we would always recommend that owners ask for help and advice from experienced keepers and take their reptile to an exotics vet at the first signs of illness.

“Keeping feeding records can help you tell if your reptile isn’t feeling well, as they may be eating less than usual, and these records will help your vet to advise you on whether the diet you are feeding is appropriate.

“Sadly many owners who buy exotic pets on impulse don’t find out how to care for the animals first and they are often handed over to buyers in pet shops with little or no information about how to care for them, or the commitment that is involved in keeping them healthy. When owners then realise how much space and care the animal requires they can lose interest, or feel overwhelmed and unable to care for them anymore. As a result reptiles are often abandoned, given up to animal rescue centres or even released into the countryside.

“It is for this reason that we are urging potential owners to research and look into what is required in the care of their pet first before taking one on so they know what is involved and how long it is likely to be for. There are books full of information on how to care for all sorts of species and specialist vets and keeping groups are a source of support and advice.”

Anyone who would like further information on how to care for exotic animals should visit www.rspca.org.uk/exotics

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit www.rspca.org.uk/give or text LOVE to 87023 to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message).