Wildlife officials are urging Florida residents and tourists to stop painting turtles and tortoises. While a turtle shell decorated with a hand-painted sunset or ocean waves may be artistic, you’re hurting their health.
Officials out of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say that painting turtles and tortoises is also illegal.
“Tortoises and turtles don’t need touch-ups! You can paint your house, a piece of furniture, a canvas, or even your own fingernails or toenails, but you should never paint the shells of turtles and gopher tortoises,” they wrote in a Facebook post.
“While to you it may seem harmless, painting the shells of turtles and tortoises can severely compromise their health — the paint can hinder their ability to absorb vitamins they need from the sun, cause respiratory problems,” it said.
They say that Gopher tortoises and freshwater turtles get their vitamins to grow and stay nourished by absorbing the sun’s UV rays through their shells, but paint and nail polish can block this out.
“Paint fumes can also cause respiratory problems, and chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the shell. In addition, a painted tortoise or turtle is more easily noticed by predators, making them more vulnerable…,” the organization warned in a statement.
Cleaning the animals from the paint is a tedious process for both caretakers and the animal, too.
The FWC shared images of a tortoise before and after a cleaning.
“As you can see…sometimes not every bit of paint can be removed or some staining remains, depending on the location of the paint and how long it was on,” they explained.
It can take several cleaning sessions to minimize stress on the animal. Some turtles and tortoises have to be sedated by a veterinarian during the process.
If you come across a tortoise or turtle with a painted shell, don’t attempt to remove the paint yourself, the experts say.
Instead, contact local officials in the area to help you.
Read the full warning.