Turtles are symbols of longevity and hard
work to the Chinese. In Singapore, they are easier to keep in small apartments. They are
usually kept in tanks and don't smell bad or make a
lot of noises unlike dogs. Many are much loved by the
young owners but many have been abandoned into
reservoirs or given up to the animal shelters.
Red-eared sliders or terrapins are the only approved
species of turtles to be kept as pets in Singapore.
This is because other turtles like Star Tortoises are
prohibited by the government.
They are bought as hatchlings in the wet markets
and in certain pet shops for 50 cents in the 1980s and
more in 2013.
I seldom have terrapins as patients since they are not
favoured as pets compared to dogs and cats. I may have
a handful of cases per year. Dog patients
predominate as patients in all veterinary surgeries in
Singapore and in my practice and when a terrapin
patient comes in, it is a challenge to cure its
One fine day in March 2004, a red-eared Slider was not walking normally
and so the owner brought him in for consultation.
"It tilts its body towards the left and lifted its right leg,
when it walks," the teenager put his slider on my consultation
table. Instead of neglecting it, the busy teenager who spent
a lot of time text-messaging his friends on his mobile phone
spared an hour to consult me.
"Let's see how it walks," I had a general examination
of the big terrapin. "It walks straight now. I don't
see any turning to the left side when it walks!"
veterinary surgery, it had behaved normally. "This
common situation for many pet owners when the pet is at the veterinary
surgery," I said. " Their pets
look normal when they should be sick!"
"What is the
problem with this terrapin?" the boy asked.
I lifted it up
and examined every part of its body. I extended its four
legs while it attempted to retract them.
"Look at just below and in front of its right armpit,"
I said. " Embedded under
the skin is a 4 mm-long wooden splinter. This condition is
I used a pair of small curved scissors to cut off the foreign body
from the skin of the armpit. "There is a little
bleeding from the skin after snipping off the wooden
splinter," I advised the owner. "However, it is not
The turtle was
bleeding a bit. It felt good and energetic wanting
only to zoom away from me when placed on the
consultation table. "It wants to go to
the most tranquil and scenic Singapore's Pierce
Reservoir," I said.
"No, no, no way!" the boy said. "It goes home to where
it is a family member. Everyone is pleased with its
good behaviour. It does not bark at all hours unlike
the dog of my neighbour. It does not spray urine on
the corridor walls unlike the cat of another neighbour.
My whole family loves it."
This turtle went home and now in 2013 when I chanced
upon its images of the foreign body in this slider,
taken in 2004, time had really passed by. I had not
seen it for the past 9 years and I presumed it is in
excellent health and will be just 16 years old.
No news is good news for the vet!
KIND TO PETS.
The picture is captioned: "I want to swim in the Pierce
Reservoir" sends a message to new pet owners to be
responsible for their pets. It is not
meant to encourage turtle swimming in reservoirs.
Its owners would never allow it to swim in any reservoir as it
would swim far
away and be lost. It
is very well cared for and never
needed veterinary attention for the past 7 years. Till it
had a foreign body.
DON'T abandon the Red-eared Sliders
in reservoirs and ponds in the Botanic Gardens, Mount Faber,
ponds and parks. When you have a pet, BE KIND.
Take care of it for as long as it lives. MORE INFO ABOUT THE RED-EARED
The top of the shell (carapace) is smooth and gently curved and is olive
to black with yellow stripes and bars. It is a medium -sized turtle that
is best identified by a red or sometimes yellow patch that is found just
behind its eye.
The Red-eared Slider is almost exclusively aquatic. It rarely ventures out
of the water except to lay its eggs or to migrate to a new water body,
should the need arise. As a water dweller, the adult turtle feeds
primarily on aquatic plants. Young turtles are mostly carnivorous,
gradually switching to vegetation as they age. This Slider is commonly seen
basking in the sun, on logs or masses of vegetation. When basking sites
are in short supply, they may even pile on top of each other, up to three
turtles deep. The Red-eared Slider very easily is spooked and will slide
directly into the water from its sunning spot at the least provocation. During the breeding season between
March and July, the female may find herself swept away by a persistent
suitor. The male Red-eared Sliders attempt to win over a female by
engaging in courtship activities include swimming backwards in front of
the female with their forelegs stretched out, palm side up. Red-eared Sliders may produce up
to three clutches of four to 23 eggs in a single year. With each nest, the
female will go on shore and dig a shallow hole that is three to 10 inches
wide. She deposits her eggs in these excavations and subsequently covers
them up with soil and materials to seal in the eggs for protection from
predators and the elements. The young turtles hatch 60 to 75 days later,
although they may spend the winter in the nest.