things NOT to do with a turtle
Do not give a turtle water in a dish to drink. Turtles don’t
drink from dishes…they “drink” the water they are immersed in.
More on the right
way to give a turtle a drink
Do not give food, they will be fine for 24 hours without food.
Do not transport the turtle in a bucket of water
as all that swishing water can cause aspiration pneumonia.
Do not turn the turtle upside down as this causes its lungs to
be crushed by the internal organs and is extremely stressful for
Do not leave turtle alone unless it is contained. Turtles can
move very fast and while you are running inside to answer the
phone etc, the turtle can move away and be in danger somewhere.
Do not put the turtle in a tank with your own turtle Why
What to do first
Handling a turtle
Turtles can bite, so avoid placing hands anywhere near the head. Hold the turtle securely as the shell can crack if turtle is
a towel can mean turtle can squirm around and out of towel if you
don't get a good grip. Though a dry turtle is also easier to hold
then a wet one.... Either hold the turtle with two hands,
positioned one on each side of the turtle, between front and back
legs so you can avoid being scratched by toe-nails.... or hold in
one hand with hand gripping shell between the back two legs...over
tail area. Always hold with fingers underneath and thumb on top
shell (not recommended for a child to hold that way though). Be
warned a turtle can have sharp claws which scratch, but generally
they don't break the skin.
The turtle will also be very stressed and can pass water into your
hand... it's clear, with no smell, more of a "put me down, I'm
frightened" then actual wee. Use a firm grip...with your whole
hand, rather than finger tips.
If the turtle has slime or algae over it wash it off with a cloth in
warm water...use a soft tooth or nail brush to remove
algae...avoiding eyes/face etc. Never use any soaps or
chemicals. Don't rub too hard as you could damage the shell. Turtles
shell also has nerve endings in it like your teeth, so you need to
be aware not to scrub too hard or 'tap' at the turtle etc. Slime can
hide many injuries and removing it can help turtle feel better and
make it easier to assess shell condition of turtle.
Choose a lidded secure box such as a large cardboard box so the
turtle can’t climb out. Turtles are very good climbers, so they
easily climb up laundry baskets and escape! Put newspaper at the
bottom of the box, then a folded towel. Then place the turtle on the
towel and another towel over the top of the turtle.
Don't 'tape' the lid down or place the turtle in a plastic container
with a lid as they need air to breathe.
Do not give food. The turtles metabolism may be very slowed down due
to being in cold or inadequate conditions. This can lead to food
rotting inside the turtle if not placed in ideal environmental
Giving a dehydrated
turtle a drink
It is likely the turtle is dehydrated.
Turtles do not drink water from dishes, they “drink” the water they
are immersed in.
You can give the turtle a
drink by placing it in luke warm water just deep
enough to go up to the top of its shell. Fill a dish, bath, laundry
tub or bowl first to the approximate depth using cold water from the
tap, then add a little hot until it is luke warm. Then place the
turtle gently in. Allow turtle 20-30 minutes to drink and possibly
toilet. Turtles are unable to eat, drink or toilet unless immersed
in water. Don’t leave it in this at night, as the turtle will get
too cold. See our section below on Water for more information.
'Red eared slider' and the 'Eastern Long-neck' turtles are the
common pet turtles found in NZ. Both are aquatic turtles and need to
live in a large volume of water with a dry basking area. HOWEVER a
'found' turtle may not be able to manage swimming in water for a
variety of reasons and so the shallow water (as above) is safest for
the turtle. If you have to house the turtle for more than a few
hours, then allowing it to have a shallow bath (as above) for up to
an hour at a time, 2 or 3 times during the day, will help keep it
hydrated. You may need to add a little warm water to stop it
becoming too cold. Always ensure the turtles safety i.e. don't
place it in a shallow bowl of water on a table. The turtle is
likely to climb out due to stress and may fall off the table causing
injury or death.
If the turtle has a gaping wound stabilise by containing as above and urgently
contact the SPCA or nearest vet.
Already have a turtle?
If you have a turtle already, do NOT put the found turtle in the
tank with them. The found turtle may have a number of contagious
conditions such as parasites or pneumonia. It may be covered with
leeches which can cause significant shell damage and be difficult to
clear from your tank/filter. The most common problem is that turtles
are territorial and prefer to live on their own. Horrific injuries
and death can be caused by turtles fighting. The found turtle must
be quarantined separately to any existing turtles you may have.
Advertise the found turtle
Once the turtle is comfortably contained and hydrated as above, please register
and place an ad for the found turtle here on
petsonthenet.co.nz/ads, under Pets Found (all other pets). Check to
see if someone has already posted a lost turtle ad under the Pets
Lost section (all other Pets), or type turtle in the search box.
Even if the turtle is quickly transferred to the hands of a shelter
or SPCA, please do still enter an ad on their behalf stating where
the turtle is now, so the owner has somewhere to follow up to,
Fostering the turtle
Please contact and arrange handover for fostership with the SPCA or
Turtle Rescue within 24 hours. Please don’t just “keep” the turtle.
This advice is purely only for a short period of time, whilst
further help is sought. Turtles cannot be kept this way for any
period of time. They require special tanks, lighting, feeding etc.
Turtles are a massive commitment, they live for 30 – 40 years,
care and plenty of power to keep them warm
and well lighted. Unless you have a lot of prior experience with
turtles, please contact Turtle Rescue ASAP where the turtle can be
housed safely and hopefully reunited or rehomed.
Turtle Rescue contact
There are two Turtle Rescues in NZ that we are aware of. One in the
South Island and one in the North island. Both will be able to offer
advice by phone in the first instance. Please mention you found them
via petsonthenet, we love success stories!
Turtle Rescue in Auckland is run by Clarice (pronounced Clareece,
Ph 09 2989099
Clarice does not check her email that often, so if you are
urgent to contact her, phoning would be faster than waiting for her
to check her email.
Clarice says she is a
trained turtle tech now and is therefore willing and able to give
some medical advice. Sadly, not all vets know much about turtles, so
if you take your turtle to the vet and they don't have the
information needed, feel free to call Clarice, vets do already.
Turtles: Rescue in Christchurch is run by Donna
Ph (03) 980 7712
021 2020 185
Facebook Turtle Rescue
Do you need to rehome your own turtle? If so please register and
post a free ad under Pets for Adoption. Please note the turtle must be
free, not for sale. You can sell the set ups separately under
Pet Accessories for Sale, or just give it with the turtle.
If you are considering adopting a turtle, from
time to time we do get ads from people rehoming their turtles, and
sometimes they come with all their set ups for free, or reasonably
priced. We recommend you read books and the internet widely to learn
lots about turtles needs BEFORE you commit to caring for one for 30
or 40 years.
Those able to offer experienced homes for a turtle can also contact
Turtles: Rescue and Rehoming as there are always a number
of turtles requiring a safe, loving home. They are understandably
cautious and keen to protect their rescue turtles from any further
trauma than they have already experienced at the hands of
unknowledgeable owners. You will be required to follow clear
guidelines to house/care for the turtle appropriately and if for
some reason it
work out, the turtle must be returned to
Turtles: Rescue and rehoming. Clarice in Auckland will also have
turtles available for adoption to the right person.
Did you know…Turtle
FAQ for raw beginners
Turtles are best as solitary pets, they don’t need
"friends” as they are territorial, leading to bullying,
fights and sometimes death.
Turtles live 30 - 40 years
Turtles are not fish, and while they require a large
amount of clean water, they must also have an easily
accessible area that is completely dry and under
A turtle will shed both its skin and
its life. (Scutes
are the individual 'squares' on the
A mature female turtle will regularly lay eggs
regardless of having a male turtle with it.
A Turtles skeleton is on the 'outside'! The shell
consists of bone covered in layers of skin. The shell is
the turtles rib cage and spine. A deformed or soft shell
means the lungs which sit right under the top shell will
be affected as well.A turtle kept in shallow water will have muscle wasting
of its limbs and may be unable to swim properly when
placed in the correct water depth.
Just like humans need sunlight to provide Vitamin D, a
turtle requires both UVB and UVA rays to metabolise Vitamin
D into calcium. Without this, the turtles shell and
immune system will be weakened. Lack of calcium in a
turtle can lead to bone disease and death.
Research completed in the UK shows that all glass
(windows and tank lids) block over 95% of the UVB/UVA
rays reaching the turtle. Also perspex covers over the
UV lights block nearly all the rays and need to be
Research shows turtles in NZ are not able to breed in
'the wild' as we don't have anywhere that is warm enough
for long enough to allow egg incubation.
In NZ, many irresponsible owners are releasing larger
turtles into 'the wild' causing the turtles to live a
difficult, inadequate life and often leading to death
from Vitamin A deficiency (through incorrect diet),
pneumonia and many other causes.
The Red Eared Slider originates from the USA and is
called a slider due to the fast way it 'slides' into the
water when startled.
The Eastern Long-neck turtle originates from Australia