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State Concerned Hollywood Film Will Impact Turtle-Buying Trend

Baby red-eared sliders are a popular pet choice in Arizona.
(Photo courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department)
Baby red-eared sliders are a popular pet choice in Arizona.

Officials at the Arizona Game and Fish Department are worried a newly released film will prompt a pet-sale trend. The agency says over time this turns into a surge of unwanted animals.

Game and Fish fears the release of the film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" will encourage many to purchase turtles. Officials say the aquatic red-eared slider is the most widely distributed turtle in the world. And it’s the species the film’s superheroes are based on.

Turtles and tortoises require a lot of care, can live for several decades and can grow to about 14 inches. Audrey Owens is a state biologist. She said when these non-native turtles are no longer wanted people often release them into urban ponds and that causes problems.

"The problem is that one, they may not survive," Owens said. "But if they do survive they can be releasing diseases and pathogens into the wild and potentially affecting our native wildlife as well as competing for resources.”

Owens said Arizona Game and Fish has been trapping turtles for nine years. In that time, 850 from 18 different species have been captured, most are the red-eared sliders.

Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez was a reporter at KJZZ from 2008 to 2015.