Today, the Lake District, and a problem.
People out grow pets, fads bring on new pets, people can’t cope with the grown animals, fads disappear leaving an unwanted animals in their wake.
Often as not, this creates a problem, because you release the animal into the wild far from its natural habitat where things are different and it has to adapt, often at the expense of other animals that were part of the original scheme of things.
Abandoned terrapins stalk Lake District
Pets bought in the wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze have been let loose and now pose a threat to wildlife and children
The ducks at Tebay services in Cumbria have a pretty good life. A cracking view of the Pennines on one side and the Lakeland fells on the other; a lovely pond by the northbound restaurant and a diet supplemented by organic leftovers from the award-winning farm shop inside. Just don’t mention the terrapins.
A few years ago something odd befell these otherwise lucky ducks, according to Terry Bowes, director of Wetheriggs Zoo and Animal Sanctuary up the M6 at Clifton Dykes near Penrith. “I had a call from Tebay and a lady there said: ‘We’ve got a problem here. Some of our ducks only have one leg. I think they must have some sort of disease.’ I went down there to have a look, and what did we find? Three red-eared terrapins the size of dinner plates! They’d been chomping the ducks’ legs off!”
Last week Bowes caused a ripple of alarm when he warned parents in the Lake District to look out for marauding terrapins, which have been dumped in the national park’s waters after becoming too big for their owners to cope with. “If you have kids paddling in a river the turtles could easily snap off a toe or a finger. They can become quite aggressive when they have grown,” he said.
So should holidaymakers panic at the growing terrapin threat? Bowes wouldn’t go quite that far. It turns out his intervention was more a cri de coeur. He was exasperated at the routine abandonment of creatures that suffered the misfortune of becoming fashionable at the time of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze.
“I was just a bit fed up with the situation,” he said on Friday as he showed the Observer around his charmingly ramshackle sanctuary. “The other Monday we had 14 terrapins come in on one day – by the end of the week we had more than 20. In the last year we’ve had more than 100 from 15 different species of freshwater terrapins. I was thinking what we could do about them all and then I heard about another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film coming out soon and steam came out of my ears. I was thinking, ‘Oh no, this is only going to get worse.'”
Before getting pets for your kids, have a good think about the future and the consequences.