How To Adopt & Rescue Turtles?

How To Adopt & Rescue Turtles

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

“Don’t shop. Adopt!!” I have seen this motto on different turtle pages and animal rescue websites. And I truly felt the necessity of awaring the people around me about the conversation status of turtles. Though the turtles are not extinct yet, some species are endangered, rare, or on the verge of extinction. This problem can be solved by rescuing turtles and adopting them.

To adopt a turtle, you can look on the online animal rescue organizations or contact your local animal shelters. You may have to submit an application answering the required questions or go through an interview with the volunteer. The organization will decide whether to give you the pet or not depending on your ability to handle the pet.

In the following article, I will talk about how to adopt and rescue turtles and why it is necessary. If you are thinking about getting a new turtle, or care about this innocent species even a bit, then this article is for you.

How To Adopt A Turtle?

If you have decided to adopt a turtle, you truly deserve appreciation. The adoption process is simple and quite straightforward when you know where to look for it.

Usually, for adopting the native turtles, the local animal/turtle rescue shelters or organizations are the better options. You can also look on the popular turtle rescue websites or social media pages to find the desired pet.

You can submit applications mentioning your desired species, turtle keeping experience, financial state, housing capabilities, etc. Each organization demands different requirements while adopting a turtle. If your application fulfills the basics, your chance of getting a pet increases.

The rescue shelter or home may interview you and make a visit to your home to cross check the facts. If everything fits, you will be a proud owner of a turtle soon.

The organizations might give you the turtle for free or charge a small amount of money. This is understandable as the shelters are not profitable organizations and trying their best to provide a home and care to the turtles. The agencies will stay in touch with you (the adopter) to make sure the pet is in good health.

Some rescue shelters offer turtle fostering programs. Here you can adopt a tiny turtle without 50 years of commitment. This program is great for those who are puzzled whether a turtle would make a great pet for them or not. The education sectors prefer turtle fostering rather than owning one for a lifetime.

Are you wondering how the fostering program works? Well, the strategy might be different depending on the organization. Two plans are most popular, such as, in-home foster and hatchling foster.

In-home foster planning is quite interesting. A volunteer can get one or more than one turtle by going through proper procedures. He/she has to deal with the turtles until they are ready to be released or adopted. 

The volunteer may have to bear the expenses of the foster turtles including housing, lighting, food, medical care, etc. In most cases, the turtle agencies provide food and medical expenses for the turtle. Even some organizations train beginner turtle keepers who have zero experience.

The turtle hatchling foster scheme is targeted for education purposes. You know it can be challenging for the educators to provide proper care to the turtles when the institute is closed. With this foster plan, the educators keep the turtles under their observation and return them to the organization when they go on vacations. This is a win-win condition for both parties.

The fostering program helps the rescue shelters as there is limited space for turtles. The more free slots mean the more ill or injured turtles will get treated.

Here you’ll find a list of turtle rescue centers in the USA.

Can Anyone Adopt A Turtle?

Yes and no. The answer totally depends on your location and state law regarding turtle possession or adoption.

A child or kid under 8 can not adopt or foster a turtle. You know reptiles, including turtles sometimes carry Salmonella. For adults, this bacteria might not be dangerous, but for kids, the condition can not be ignored.

In 1975, there was an outbreak of Salmonella in the USA. So, the state banned selling or adopting any turtle hatchling below 4 inches in length. Though the risk of Salmonella isn’t high right now, it is suggested to keep your kids away from small turtles. Washing your hands after handling the reptiles is a must.

In some states, the license of possessing reptiles or nongame reptiles is needed to adopt or foster a turtle. The law also forbids keeping less than 20 reptiles or nongame wild animals under one license or shelter. No organization can put an endangered or threatened turtle species up for adoption without permission from the authority. Similarly, no person can possess an endangered turtle without a permit.

As the law is different in different states and countries, do research before contacting the turtle adoption agencies. Go through the licensing process if necessary.

Besides these laws and regulations, each turtle rescue shelters focus on the housing and venting system of the adopter’s space. For an adult box turtle species, a minimum tank capacity of 15 feet is required. The traditional glass tank is not suitable for the box turtles.

For the aquatic and semi aquatic turtles, 10 gallons for each inch of the shell is suggested. Of course, the bigger the enclosure, the better it is for the turtles. In the case of an outdoor habitat, it has to be predator-proof.

The enclosure or habitat has to be equipped with necessary supplies like a heating bulb and UV light, water filter, water heater, basking dock, etc. The rescued turtles are mostly wild or injured ones. This is why providing them an environment as close to nature is important.

The organization will inquire about the annual income of the adopter. You know turtles can survive in rough weather and environment. But in captivity, they require proper care, food, and regular medical care, which can be expensive sometimes. If your lifestyle does not match with the turtles, then the pet will be a burden for you.

Another important part for adopting is vet reference or your prior experience regarding petting any animals or turtle. Some organizations give priorities to the experienced ones, while others are open to all. In the case of a newbie, the agency may give a quick training or provide a detailed care sheet for that turtle species.

If you fit with the organization’s requirements, they will contact you soon. And after the final interview and screening, your buddy can go to its new home with you.

Can You Adopt A Sea Turtle?

Physically, you can not adopt sea turtles, but symbolically, yes. Several ads on the internet show that you can adopt a sea turtle with a minimum amount like 15 to 30 dollars. Anyone would think of it as a great deal. But wait, sea turtles are not up for adoption, ever.

You know there are 7 species of sea turtles available in the world. Such as,

  1. Hawksbill sea turtle
  2. Loggerhead sea turtle
  3. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle
  4. Flatback sea turtle
  5. Olive sea turtle
  6. Green sea turtle
  7. Leatherback sea turtle

Out of these 7 species, 6 are endangered and threatened. Due to water pollution, climate change, fishing, and poaching, we are losing sea turtles. According to a report, around 6.5 sea turtles are living in the water right now.

Sea turtles are endangered species and their lifestyle is different from the land, semi aquatic, and aquatic turtles. So, you can not physically have a pet sea turtle. But, still, you can adopt one. How?

Several renowned and licensed marine institutes and organizations are working to save marine turtles. They rescue the injured, ill, or lost sea turtles. Then they provide the turtles proper care and treatment until they can be released back to the sea.

Maintaining a sea turtle is pretty expensive. That is why they collect donations and now they have come with an idea of symbolic adoption. Under this program, you can take the financial responsibility of a sea turtle on a monthly, yearly, or lifetime basis.

The organization will take care of your pet and keep you updated on its health. The agencies put a tracker on the turtle (if it fits) when it is about to release in the sea. In that way, you can keep a track on the pet and the researchers get to study the behavior of the sea turtles.

Instead of adopting one baby, young, or adult sea turtle, you can take the responsibility of a full clutch. Some sea turtle species lay around 180 eggs at a time, twice a year. After laying the eggs the female turtle gets back to the sea and never looks back.

The babies have to hatch and survive on their own. The environment or temperature is barely in their favor. A stat reports that 1 out of 1000 hatchlings make it to life. So, the organizations offer you the opportunity to adopt at least one hatchling.

The experts will take care of the hatchling on behalf of you. They will make sure the baby survives and runs back to the sea when it is ready. The adoption charges for sea turtles are reasonable. It starts at $15/ $20 and depending on the service this may cost you $250 or more.

Are you wondering what you will get in return? The organizations offer adoption certificates, a tracker for adult turtles, and many more attractive gifts. The best thing here is you are helping out to balance the marine diversity by saving a sea turtle.

Things To Consider Before Adopting A Turtle

I have seen people adopting a turtle because it is free or cheap. It is true, but you should think about the cost you need to bear after the adoption? You might think turtles are low maintenance, which is not totally true.

Ideally, you have to set up a fully equipped enclosure for the turtle. This can cost you a handsome amount of money. Apart from this, add the food and regular medical care charge to the list.

I am not discouraging you to adopt or get a turtle. But I personally believe, if you are taking responsibility for a pet, be sure you are ready for this. Here are the things you should consider before your turtle adoption:

1. Life expectancy:

When you adopt a pet, you take responsibility for that creature for a lifetime. Compared to other pets like cats or dogs, turtles have a longer life expectancy. A captive turtle can live around 10 to 80 years depending on the species. Some turtle species may live more than 100 years.

For example, a red eared slider has a lifespan of 20 to 40 years. A map turtle lives up to 30 years. Click here to get a list of turtle species with expected lifespan. Are you wondering why turtles live this long? Check this article to get your answers.

You can see, turtles require care and company for more years than most other animals. So, ask yourself if you are up for this long time commitment before adopting the turtle.

2. Turtle care:

No matter how tough a turtle is in the wild, it requires constant care in captivity. The indoor or outdoor enclosure is very different from the wild one. So, you have to be careful while setting up the habitat and preparing the diet chart for the species.

Box turtles are quite a popular pet in the USA and outside. For this species, 36*12 inches area or 40 to 75 gallon tank will be better. Though most experts suggest not raising a box turtle in the glass aquarium, a strong tank will work, I guess.

The habitat must contain proper substrate, heating lamp, under cage heater, UV lamp, and other accessories. A small water source is also appreciable. An ideal diet for the box turtles includes both vegetables and animal based protein. Get the ultimate care guide for box turtles from here.

Another most popular turtle species as a pet is the red eared slider. This is a semi aquatic species and these turtles are small in size. But still, the pets need a lot more space for moving and swimming.

The enclosure should be equipped with a basking dock, basking lights, water filter, tank heaters, etc. As for diet, the red eared sliders are omnivores but prefer eating meat and animal protein. Check this article to get a detailed care sheet for red eared sliders.

To provide the best care to your pet turtle needs dedication and time. Think twice if you have the time and energy to raise the pets. The slightest lack of care may lead the turtles to severe health conditions.

Here are free care sheets of different turtle species, softshell turtle, painted turtle, map turtle.

3. Expense:

To raise a turtle, you may have to spend around $200 to $500 per year depending on the species and the food type you are offering. The monthly expense of a native aquatic or semi aquatic is around $20 to $40. For some species, the cost may go around $100 per month.

I know $30 or $40 a month is not big of a deal. You also need to consider the regular medical check up cost and any emergency medical care expenses.

4. Space:

This is a crucial part. Turtles require wide space to move and swim. So, make sure the big tank fits in your room. In case you want to build an outdoor habitat, it has to be in a half shady and half sunny place.

For an indoor habitat, the room should be well ventilated. Putting the pet in a chaotic room can mess with its sleep cycle and health. A quiet, spacious, and the well ventilated room is the basic need for raising healthy turtles.

Why Should You Adopt A Turtle?

For some people, purchasing a turtle is easier than adoption. I mean you do not have to go through paperwork, interviews, and so on. I can understand your position, but still, I will encourage everyone to adopt a turtle instead of buying. Why?

When you buy your turtle from a local pet store, you encourage them to trap turtles and breed them. Most of the local pet stores harvest or keep the turtles in worse condition. I have visited a few shops where there is no adequate light and multiple turtles are living in a dirty congested space. This is a violation of state law and is considered animal cruelty.

Again, the black market dealers give you a turtle at a less price. Because they hunt the turtles or take them from the wild. It puts negative pressure on turtle conservation and diversity.

You already know many turtle species are endangered. Fishing, habitat destruction, poaching, climate change, and pollution are responsible for this endangerment. On top of that, if you encourage the marketers to harvest turtles, this will not help.

By harvesting turtles, definitely the number increases. But the breed turtle can not carry the pure species characteristics. These are the reasons why you should not buy a turtle. Instead, adopt one from the rescue shelters. This will help the injured and helpless turtles to survive and live a healthy life. 

Also, sometimes you are not so sure about getting a pet. In that case, fostering or adopting a turtle will be the best way. Adopting a turtle for your children will make them more responsible. Most important point is, you are contributing to balance the wild environment and saving a species.

Important Note: If you want to breed a turtle, you should not adopt a turtle. The adoption agencies mostly give away the rescued and wild turtles. Breeding those turtles in captivity is neither suitable nor suggested.

What To Do If I Do Not Want My Turtle Anymore?

Not everyone is a turtle lover. Sometimes, you may care for your turtle but can not find enough time for it. And now you do not want your turtle anymore. What will you do?

First of all, do not ever think of releasing the turtle in a lake, sea, or into the wild. The turtle will not survive for a long time and it will disbalance the breeding process of the wild turtles. The important fact is, releasing your captive turtle into the wild is illegal.

You can try other ways, for example, put your turtle for adoption on social media and different rescue agencies. Contact the local shops and see if they can rehome the pet. Some agencies provide financial help in case you are giving up your pet because of money.

How To Rescue A Turtle?

Turtles are often seen around your home if you live in a rural place. Sometimes, while driving, you may get a sight of turtles on the path. The unfortunate thing is, turtles often get injured while crossing the road. If you see a helpless turtle, you should come forward to rescue it.

How can you rescue a turtle? Remember not all turtles need to be rescued. It can be possible that the animal is minding its own business and just roaming around.

Here are the points you need to consider while rescuing a turtle:

Native Turtle or Not

Is the turtle native? Do a close observation to find out your answer. You can call the rescue agencies or wildlife services. They will help you identify the turtle.

Spotting a native turtle in a healthy state is normal. But the non-native turtles are usually escaped or released. If you leave them alone in an unknown place, they might not survive. So, you have to rescue the pet.

Risk Calculation

Is the turtle in a risky location? Turtles have hard shells and fear of fall. A hard fall can cause crackings on the shell, which will lead to bacterial attacks and so on. If you find the turtle in a dangerous spot, contact the rescue organizations. The experts will save the turtle from further risks.

Physical Injury

Is the turtle injured? If the turtle is injured, you need to be careful with your actions. Handle the turtle gently and place it in a warm, clean, shaded container. Then contact the rescue agencies immediately. Do not apply first aid on the turtle if you are not an expert. If the turtle is in severe condition, go to a vet if possible.

Sea Turtle?

Is that a sea turtle? Sea turtles are big in size and have very distinctive features. Check this article to know how to identify a sea turtle.

If you find a sea turtle, do not release it into the water right away. Take it out of the beach and place it in a clean, dry place. The turtle will be fine at room temperature.

Then find the nearest marine or usual turtle resume institute and contact them. Place the pet in a breathable container. Put a towel on the container floor to make it comfortable for the turtle. Make sure the pet does not get hurt while transporting it to the rescue center.

You should not feed the turtle anything during the time. If the turtle seems to be dead, gently touch it. Turtles in hypothermia often respond to sensitivity.

Don’t Mess Up With Box Turtles

If you find a healthy box turtle, do not mess with it. Do not take it away from where you have found it. The box turtles have a home range, which they never cross. If you release the turtle into another place, it will be completely lost. The turtle’s instinct will drive it to find the way home for the rest of its life.

Don’t Release A Turtle Into Water

Never release a turtle into the water. If the species is a box turtle, it will drown and die. The best way is to release it closer to a water source and forest area.

Don’t Change Turtle’s Direction

If a turtle is going in a direction, do not change its way. This way the turtle will never reach its destination.

Consider Professional Help

Turtles are wild animals. While rescuing them, they may react and try to bite. Do not harm them no matter what. Contact the animal shelters in case you are not confident enough to handle the turtle.

Consider The Laws

Do not take the rescued turtle as a pet. This is illegal in many states and a punishable act.


Turtles are endangered species and they need your support. By adopting a turtle you can save an innocent life. The rescuing of a turtle is indeed a great act. It increases the chance of the lost or injured turtle living longer.

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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