| Turtles, Tortoises & Terrapins: Survivors in Armor |
By Ronald Orenstein
Firefly Books 2001; ISBN: 1-55209-605X; 308 pages
While turtles may have evolved fairly little over the past 200 million years, our knowledge about them has increased dramatically. Dr. Ronald Orenstein's new book presents a remarkable amount of wisdom in an eminently readable volume. He takes us on a global journey detailing the unique features of hundreds of different turtles: Australia's rare western swamp turtle, the South American matamata turtle, which resembles "a pile of dead leaves," Africa's carnivorous helmeted terrapin, and all species of sea turtles.
Many questions about turtles are explored. How do they breathe in their restrictive shells? What do they eat? How do they handle temperature extremes? What are their courtship rituals? How do they fend off predators?
The book is replete with more than 300 beautiful color photographs that illustrate variations in shell shape, neck length, and colorations. There are close-ups of turtle hatchlings emerging from their shells and even a shot of an Australian broad-shelled turtle breathing underwater, air bubbles rising toward the surface.
Turtles are at grave risk. They succumb to habitat loss, pollution, predators, and the international trade in turtles for food and their shells. "The international trade in wild-caught pet turtles condemns many animals to slow and miserable deaths," Dr. Orenstein writes.
While he asserts that turtles are "victims of almost the entire catalogue of abuses we heap on our environment," there is hope that with action by international conventions, passage of specific protective laws, and education of the public, turtles can be saved. Dr. Orenstein correctly contends that "wild species in their natural environments are resources to be husbanded and protected, not mines to be pillaged."
When asked for whom the book is intended, the author simply responded, "turtle lovers." Anyone who is not yet in that category surely will be after reading this magnificent book.
| Reptiles as Pets: An Examination of the Trade in Live Reptiles in the United States |
By Joseph Franke, M.S. and Teresa M. Telecky, Ph.D.
The Humane Society of the United States 2001; ISBN 0-9658942; 146 pages
Are you considering adding your home to the roughly four million in the US containing a reptile or amphibian as a companion? Read Reptiles as Pets first. The international commercial trade in these delicate creatures involves high mortality, individual animal cruelty, and human health risks.
The trade in live reptiles, amphibians, and related products is estimated to be a two billion dollar business annually in the US. Impulsive pet store customers especially are vulnerable to reptile purchases. Reptiles as Pets contends that some major retailers "place their reptile cages near the front of their stores in high-traffic locations in order to entice the impulse buyer. Additionally, many of the cages are placed low to the ground, making them more visible to children."
Reptiles and amphibians often are cheap to purchase but housing and related equipment are expensive. Thus, when animals die, people buy replacement pets, having already invested in the housing apparatus.
Injury and death to reptiles in trade begins at capture and continues through transport. Animals may be shipped cruelly in containers stacked on top of one another, sometimes with little or no water, with thin wooden dividers that can collapse, crushing animals on the lower rows. Well over 80% of those who survive to a buyer's home may die within the first year.
Our health is also jeopardized. Reptiles are reservoirs for salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans; snakes have been known to attack humans in their own homes, often with fatal results.
Reptiles as Pets is full of useful data, informative charts and graphs, and real-life stories which highlight the myriad dangers of reptile pet ownership.