What becomes of turtles relinquished to Petco?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2012:


SAN DIEGO–Petco is recycling undersized turtles turned into stores by members of the public,  the 1,000-store pet supply chain acknowledged in response to recent PETA allegations,  and is doing business with a Louisiana turtle farm that sells turtles for human consumption to China,  but according to Petco,  the turtles sold to China are not the Petco turtles.

  “After learning that Petco has been soliciting pet turtles from the public for months and shipping them to its own turtle supplier-a major exporter of turtles to China’s turtle-meat market,” said PETA spokesperson Shakira Croce,  PETA on October 29, 2012 suggested that animal advocates should ask Petco “to end its so-called ‘Turtle Relinquis-hment Program’ as well as its sale of pet turtles.”

 The Petco program,  said Croce,  “was evidently prompted by recent news of pet turtle-related cases of salmonella poisoning in humans.  Because of the link between turtles and salmonella,”  Croce recounted,  “the sale of baby turtles less than four inches long has been banned in the U.S. since 1975.  However,  turtles of all sizes naturally carry salmonella in their intestinal tracts.

 “Petco’s program solicits free turtles from unknowing families,”  Croce alleged,  “and ships them to its supplier turtle factory farm,  presumably for eventual resale into the pet trade, thereby increasing and spreading the risk of salmonella.”

The supplier,  the Concordia Turtle Farm in Wildsville, Louisiana,  founded in 1968,  “keeps nearly 200,000 adult turtles in only 17 ponds,”  Croce said. “Concordia breeds 60,000 pet turtles a year for Petco alone and ships more than two million turtle hatchlings overseas for slaughter annually,  mostly to China.”

Forwarded by HerpDigest on November 1,  2012,  the PETA alert drew no immediate response from either Petco or Concordia,  at least that either ANIMAL PEOPLE or HerpDigest obtained or was published by other media,  but HerpDigest later distributed a counter attack from one Mark Feld-man,  who complained that “Turtle farms in the United States have undergone a significant contraction as the Chinese have begun to dominate the industry.”

Feldman told ANIMAL PEOPLE that he had “spent three springs and summers at the Concordia Turtle Farm doing research. I believe strongly that the cornerstone of conservation of exploited wild species is to farm them if possible,”  Feldman added.

 Contacted by ANIMAL PEOPLE on November 2,  2012,  Petco Foundation executive director Paul Jolly said he had first heard of the issue only the day before,  and had asked Petco corporate communications “for some type of explanation.”

Three days later Jolly received and forwarded a response dated October 31,  2012 from Petco vice president of veterinary medicine Tom Edling.  “The PETA claims  about Petco’s  Turtle Relinquishment Program are simply untrue,”  said Edling.  “We are not and would never collect turtles,  or any other animals,  to be shipped overseas and used for food.”

But this is not actually what Croce said was done,   while pointing out that Concordia is involved in the Chinese turtle meat trade.

Because “Some baby and undersized turtles continue to be sold illegally at street fairs,  flea markets and elsewhere,”  Edling said,  “We discussed the issue with the Concordia Turtle Farm and introduced our Turtle Relinquishment Program.”

This,  Edling continued,  “does not generate a profit for Petco;  in fact, it is a cost to our business to operate.  All undersized turtles relinquished to Petco are sent to Concordia at Petco’s cost.  Those turtles are placed in ‘grow out’ ponds where they can grow to the proper and legal size,”  at which time “the relinquished turtles are sold back to us at a standard cost and then offered for purchase.  Any legal-size,  healthy turtles relinquished to Petco may also be sent to Concordia for the same process,”  Edling said,  “or may be kept and placed as part of our Think Adoption First program.”

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