Free baby Turtle for sale
Lorri Cramer’s Upper West Side bathroom is “shell” on earth.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, ” Cramer said Saturday as 620 red-eared slider turtle hatchlings bobbed around in five big blue basins of water.
Every one of the golf-ball-sized baby turtles is a skittering speck of contraband — members of a non-native species that’s illegal to sell or release in New York state.
So when they were seized by state Department of Environmental Conservation agents from a Chinatown warehouse on Thursday, options were limited.
“The didn’t want to euthanize them, ” said Cramer, a state-licensed wildlife rehabber with the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society. “So they called me.”
“I thought they were giving me 52, ” she recalled. “ And when they got here, they brought 650.” Thirty of them had died.
The sliders are native to the southeast US, but are bred in bulk on farms in China, she said.
The three small bins these hatchlings were shipped in had stickers reading, “Origin: China” and “Yi Bao Produce Group, Inc.” The Vernon, Calif.-based company did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
“It’s illegal to sell them if the shells are smaller than 4 inches, ” Cramer explained, citing a 1975 federal law passed to stem salmonella outbreaks from their widespread sale in pet stores.
The turtles are purchased by the pound — in crates intentionally mislabeled as “seafood—” by Chinatown wholesalers, who sell them to nearby novelty shops or, in bulk, to well-meaning Buddhists, who set them free in karma-enhancing “compassionate release” ceremonies, Cramer said. Baby-turtle peddlers can get as much as a year in jail and $1, 000 in fines, but most get a slap on the wrist, the conservationist complains.