On Friday, September 08, 2017, we got a frantic message from an animal shelter in West Memphis, AR. A man, scrounging for scrap metal behind an Asian restaurant, came upon an abandoned dishwasher. The restaurant had been closed by the health department two weeks prior, so he figured the washer was fair game. As he attempted to load it onto his truck, he realized it wasn't empty. He opened it and found it was full of turtles. He immediately called the animal shelter, who took them in.
The beautiful faces above are the Mississippi Diamondback Terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin pileata, found in that washing machine. Their natural habitat is brackish water (part freshwater/part saltwater) along the gulf coasts and marshes of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. They do not occur naturally in Arkansas. Upon discovering their species, the shelter was advised to contact a Mississippi entity to take the turtles, and that's where we came in.
There were 19 in all. Two were dead in the dishwasher. Another died at the Memphis shelter before we got there. All of them were (are) sick with respiratory infections and fungus. Of the 16 left, there were 5 that we'd classify as being in critical condition. Sadly, within a week we lost all but one of those critical terrapins. As of this time we have 12 remaining (all female) all battling illness and stress.
So how does a gulf coast turtle end up in Arkansas? Harvesting. All of these turtles were caught in the wild. You can tell this by their massive heads (large muscles build up from eating hard-shelled mollusks and crustaceans in the wild.) Some even still have barnacles on them. These beautiful animals (and very likely hundreds more like them) were scooped up by harvesters and transported God knows where or for what purpose. Some get exported, some go into the pet trade, and many end up on someone's dinner plate. Commercial harvesting isn't legal here but Mississippi, but in some states such as Louisiana, the practice is perfectly legal.
We will fight to the end to save the remaining 12, but it's going to be a long road for them. I can't begin to imagine what they've been through since being ripped from their marshy homes, probably several months to a year ago. No animal deserves to be treated this way!
Their care is not cheap. These turtles need specialized care, food and habitats. They require brackish water kept at specific salinity levels, extra water filtration, crushed coral and shells as a substrate, and very large tanks. They are all receiving antibiotics as well as receiving anti-fungal soaks in the hopes of clearing up their skin and shell infections.
Our rescues finances are being stretched to the limit. If you can help in any way ... any amount ... it would be greatly appreciated! Visit our Donatepage to see the various ways you can help us continue to help these magnificent creatures.