Invasive Species Week: Exotic Pets
European Pond Terrapins became a popular pet in the late 1980s and early 1990s during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze. Unfortunately this was then followed by the release of many of the terrapins into ponds and streams once they were no longer wanted. It is thought that at least 4000 terrapins are feral in the UK, with London having the highest density of terrapin abandonment. Releasing invasive non-native animal species into the wild is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
When terrapins are abandoned their welfare is compromised as they require specific temperatures, a good depth and flow of oxygenated water and basking opportunities. However, when conditions are favourable terrapin abandonment can result in negative impacts to the environment. Although terrapins are omnivores, when in large numbers or in a small pond they can deplete vegetation resources. This can alter habitats and adversely impact on our native species such as great crested newt which use aquatic plant leaves to lay their eggs in.