|A screen grab Facebook post of a ’mini turtle’ vendor, with many saying that they are actually the red-eared sliders, an exotic and highly invasive species.|Viet Nam News
‘Mini turtles’, or miniscule creatures that are barely double the size of a thumbnail with painted-on shells, are the latest fad amongst Vietnamese youngsters in search of cute pets.
The drawings on the shells vary from simple flowers and ordinary sceneries to more sophisticated drawings of popular anime characters.
Advertised as a low-maintenance pet that can live up to one month without drinking or eating with the additional benefit of eating mosquitoes and flies, inputting the keyword in Facebook search tool yields hundreds of results from makeshift vendors, who sell the turtles for VNĐ 40-60,000 (US$ 1.71-2.57).
However, the selling and buying of these painted-on turtles is stirring controversy.
Some suggest that the painting might be toxic for the reptiles, as several vendors have even gone so far as to paint the head of the turtle to make them more attractive.
The vendors also often fail to provide information as regards to the species.
Several social media users have also raised their suspicions that these might be the latest “reincarnation” of Trachemys scripta elegans, a North American native semi-aquatic turtle that appeared in Việt Nam a decade ago (commonly referred to as ‘red-eared turtles’).
The red-eared turtles used to be a popular pet in Việt Nam and caused a headache for the agriculture sector, as experts have repeatedly warned over its aggressive and invasive nature.
But it seems the species is making a comeback via duplicitous traders, armed with a coat of paint to mask the threats it poses for the ecosystem.
Hà Đình Đức a ‘turtle professor’ who earned the nickname for his studies on the famous turtle in the Hoàn Kiếm Lake of Hà Nội, affirmed that the new mini turtles are indeed the red-eared turtles, which are still banned. — VNS