Maryland environmental officials warn of black market turtle trade

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie will be in theaters this Friday and that has Maryland’s  Department of Natural Resources concerned.

“You get something that draws attention to that animal and there is a big spike in sales of that particular animal,” said Cpl. Mike Lathroum of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.

DNR officials think this new movie will influence young kids to want a turtle as a pet; specifically small red-eared sliders. DNR is warning the public of a black market for these animals.

“[These black markets are] popping up in different places,” Lathroum said. “Street corners, venders, parking lots of amusement parks. Most recent we had complaints at Artscape.

Any turtle less than four inches long is illegal to sell in Maryland. They are not native to Maryland and along with those complications they can bring in diseases dangerous to humans and other turtles.

“That's the last thing we want to see is African or Asian viruses of turtles being released into Maryland where they can get into our terrapins, snapping turtles, our amazing diversity of our amphibians,” said Jonathan McKnight with the Department of Natural Resources.

Environmental officials warn that if diseases don't affect local turtle wildlife, having these non-native species introduced into local ponds can have devastating effects on Maryland turtles.

The Department of Natural Resources is also stressing that if you want to get your child a turtle as a pet, the animal can live up to 50 years.

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