A juvenile female Alabama map turtle has been rescued from a stream in Caerphilly.
Two children are understood to have found the tiny turtle in the stream next to the Asda superstore on Pantygwindy Road in Caerphilly on Wednesday (7 August).
The stray reptile was transported to a local veterinary practice for care and support, before RSPCA officers collected the animal and took her to the International Tortoise Association in Sully.
An appeal for information has now been launched by the animal welfare charity in the hope of tracking down the owner, or to decipher how the turtle came to be left in the Caerphilly stream.
She was found with her eyes swollen shut, but has been doing well since being rescued, with one eye already reopened and the other expected to follow soon.
RSPCA Cymru says the incident is a reminder of the numerous challenges with meeting the welfare needs of exotic pets.
Christine McNeil, RSPCA inspector, said: “This poor turtle was found very cold in a stream in Caerphilly; and undoubtedly very scared.
“We’re so grateful to the two boys who spotted this animal and transported her to a veterinary practice. They may very well have saved her life.
“Exotic pets can be a real challenge to care for; and sadly our officers do deal with many cases where animals have either been abandoned, or have escaped inappropriate accommodation.
“It is unclear in this case whether this turtle was abandoned or had escaped – but we’re eager to try and find out what happened to her.
“Anyone with information can contact our inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018.”
Abandoning a reptile or releasing unwanted exotic pets into the wild is cruel and illegal. Reptiles are wild animals kept in captivity and so their needs – as defined under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 – are essentially no different to animals of the same species living in the wild.
The needs of reptiles can be challenging to meet by members of the public because they are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions that can be difficult to replicate in a home.
Reptiles that are not native to this country need a heated environment with a specific temperature gradient for the species to regulate their body temperature, in order to stay healthy and allow them to carry out their normal behaviour – so this cold stream would have been a wholly inappropriate environment for the poor turtle.
If a reptile becomes too cold they may be unable to feed or move normally and their immune system will not work properly to fight disease, meaning the animal can become very ill.
For further advice and guidance on caring for exotic pets, see the RSPCA’s exotics web page.