American Tortoise Rescue Begs Parents Buy Ninja Toys Not Real Turtles

Numbers of Dumped Turtles Explodes After Each Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Movie

Malibu, CA – June 2, 2016 – American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) is asking parents to buy Ninja turtle toys not live turtles for children who see the new T eenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows scheduled for release June 3. (View a video .)

After the hugely successful release of previous films, turtles, most commonly the red eared sliders, were purchased by the thousands for children who wanted their own ninja turtles. The purchase is often an impulse buy without regard to the fact that turtles can live 25 years or more.  Sadly, most of these turtles were abandoned in shelters and rescues or dumped into lakes and waterways (or worse toilets) after the movie’s young fans found out that the real turtles did not fight crime or perform incredible stunts. 

Pet stores, street sellers, mercados and reptile shows are stocking up on the turtles because they retail anywhere from $10 to $50. “This will be a very lucrative market both domestically and internationally for sellers, and a disaster for anyone in the rescue business and for the environment,” said Susan Tellem, RN, BSN, co-founder of ATR. “In addition, turtles carry salmonella which can be deadly for a child or someone in the household who is elderly or has an immune suppressed disease.”

 She added, “After a brief period, usually a day or two, of caring for a turtle, most children become bored and lose interest. Parents will realize that frequent tank cleaning is not their cup of tea, and either neglect the turtle until it dies, toss them in a pond or river or cart them off to the nearest animal shelter or turtle rescue.”   

Tellem says that this proved disastrous for the thousands of turtles and the places they ended up. “Red eared sliders, easily identifiable because of the red stripe next to their eyes, are the most common turtles given up for adoption,” she said. “Because we recommend only adopting turtles to people with private ponds where they can mimic their natural habitat, we along with many rescues around the world have to turn away thousands of turtles.” Tellem says the best situation is to purchase action figure toys that actually mimic the ninja movements kids see in the film. 

“Unfortunately, no one tells the potential owner that these turtles grow to be anywhere from six to 12 inches long and live long lives, instead of staying that cute little quarter or palm size,” Tellem said. For the past 40 years, it’s been illegal to sell turtles of any kind anywhere in the U.S. if they are under four inches long, a law that has been largely ignored. The law was enacted to prevent children from putting tiny turtles in their mouths and exposing them to salmonella. 

For more information, visit or contact ATR at . Follow on twitter @tortoiserescue and on Facebook at where turtles and tortoises are showcased for adoption.

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Suggested tweet: Buy #TMNT toys not live turtles for kids. Live turtles live 25 years, grow to 12 inches and need constant care.

Media contact

Susan Tellem, RN, BSN


About Us

American Tortoise Rescue is a nonprofit founded in 1990 for the protection of all species of turtles and tortoises. We have rescued more than 3,000 since our inception. Foundlings that cannot be adopted because of ill health remain in the care of ATR for the remainder of their lives. ATR acts as a clearinghouse for information about turtle care. We work to abolish “live market” slaughter of turtles in the US, the cruel importation and exploitation of a variety of species and protecting the desert tortoise.


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Buy Ninja turtle toys not live turtles for children who see the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
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After a brief period, usually a day or two, of caring for a turtle, most children become bored and lose interest.
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