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Experts Denounce Tortoise-Painting

Friday, August 12, 2016

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Tortoise shell is decidedly “in” as a design for eyeglass frames, but for some in Florida, it’s apparently not stylish enough on actual tortoises—so much so that conservation officials are calling for residents to stop painting the reptiles.

According to a Washington Post report Wednesday (Aug. 10), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a request via Facebook for Floridians not to paint the shells of native gopher tortoises, or the state’s 30-plus species of turtles.

The post is accompanied by photos of painted tortoises in multiple colors.

'Keystone Species'

“I think they thought it would be cute, like painting their fingernails … but it’s really harmful to the creature,” Florida homeowner Karen Sirabian, who found a painted tortoise, told the Post.

Gopher tortoises are deemed “threatened” in Florida, and are subject to regulations outlawing their hunting, capturing or harassment. The tortoises make burrows that are shared by other species of animals, making them a “keystone species,” according to the FWC.

Why It's Harmful

Painting their shells isn’t just an innocent work of art; it’s a danger to their health.

“The paint can hinder their ability to absorb vitamins they need from the sun, cause respiratory problems, allow toxic chemicals into the bloodstream and more,” the FWC explained in the Facebook post.

The Post notes that the bright paint jobs can also hinder the tortoises’ efforts at camouflaging themselves, leaving them more vulnerable to predators. According to the Gopher Tortoise Council, young tortoises have many predators while their shells are still not fully hardened, and even fully grown tortoises can be attacked by raccoons and dogs.

While the goal may be to make the scenery a little more decorative—or, as some Facebook commenters posited, to make the tortoises more visible to traffic—the experts say, just leave well enough alone. Perhaps it’s not easy being green, but for a tortoise, it’s even harder being anything else.

   

Tagged categories: Color; Enforcement; Ethics; Paint; Paint application; Regulations

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