No, You Can’t Keep Sea Turtles as Pets: Here’s Why

Sea turtles are one of the most recognizable and beloved creatures of the ocean. These gentle giants have been around for millions of years and have survived countless challenges, but their numbers are now dwindling.

Today, six out of seven species of sea turtles are considered endangered, and it is illegal to keep them as pets. Instead, those looking for a turtle companion should opt for smaller turtle species available in pet stores.

Health and Legal Risks of Keeping Sea Turtles as Pets

Having a sea turtle at home poses both health and legal risks. Here are some of the risks associated with keeping sea turtles as pets:

Health risks

Sea turtles can carry harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause illnesses in humans. These can be transmitted through direct contact, such as handling the turtle or cleaning its tank, or through indirect contact, such as contaminated water or surfaces. Salmonella is one example of a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from turtles to humans.

Legal risks

Many species of sea turtles are protected by law, and it is illegal to capture or keep them as pets. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists all sea turtle species in Appendix I, which means that international trade in these species is strictly prohibited. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) also provides protection to sea turtles and makes it illegal to harm, harass, or kill them.

Ethical concerns

Keeping sea turtles as pets is an act of cruelty that can cause significant harm to these magnificent creatures. Sea turtles are wild animals that have specific care requirements, and captivity can lead to stress, illness, and even death. By removing them from their natural habitats, humans are depriving them of their freedom and exposing them to various health risks.

Moreover, sea turtles have complex behaviors that cannot be replicated in captivity, leading to a poorer quality of life. Therefore, it is essential to refrain from keeping these animals as pets and take measures to protect their natural habitats instead.

Endangered Status of Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are currently listed as endangered or threatened species, depending on the species and their population status. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists six out of seven sea turtle species as threatened with extinction, with three species being critically endangered.

Sea turtles face a range of threats that are primarily caused by human activities, including:

  • Habitat loss: Sea turtles rely on beaches for nesting, and their habitats are being destroyed by coastal development and erosion.
  • Pollution: Plastic pollution, oil spills, and other types of pollution harm sea turtles and their habitats.
  • Climate change: Climate change affects the temperature and chemistry of the ocean, which can have a significant impact on sea turtles.
  • Bycatch: Sea turtles can get caught in fishing gear, particularly in nets used for shrimp trawling.
  • Poaching and hunting: Sea turtles are hunted for their meat, eggs, shells, and other products in many parts of the world.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect sea turtles, including the establishment of protected areas, regulations to limit fishing activities, and efforts to reduce plastic pollution. However, more needs to be done to ensure the survival of these ancient and important creatures.

Also Read: Are Tortoises Endangered?

Alternatives to Keeping Sea Turtles as Pets

For those who want to keep turtles as pets, there are many other species that are smaller, easier to care for, and legal to own. Some popular pet turtle species include red-eared sliders, painted turtles, and box turtles. These turtles are native to North America and are commonly available in pet stores.

However, it is important to remember that even these smaller species require proper care, including adequate space, proper lighting, and a balanced diet.


Unfortunately, the sea turtle population is declining, and they are now considered endangered. It is illegal to keep sea turtles as pets, and doing so would be inhumane and harmful to the animals. Those looking for a turtle companion should instead choose a smaller species from a reputable pet store and provide them with the proper care and attention they require. By doing so, we can help protect these incredible creatures and preserve their natural habitats for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are turtles a good and safe pet?

Turtles can make great pets, but they do require some special care.

First of all, turtles need a lot of space to live and thrive. If you’re considering a turtle as a pet, make sure you have an enclosure large enough for them to move around in and explore. Additionally, they need access to both land and water areas, so be sure to provide them with these features.

Secondly, turtles are living creatures that need proper nutrition and care. While many people assume that turtles are easy to take care of because they don’t require much interaction or affection, this isn’t necessarily true. They need a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and proteins such as insects, worms, or pellets. It’s also important to keep their tank clean by regularly changing the water and cleaning up any waste matter.

What turtle species can I keep as pets?

There are many different species of turtles that make great pets, including:

  1. Red-eared slider
  2. Mississippi map turtle
  3. Painted turtle
  4. African side neck turtle
  5. Spotted turtle
  6. Musk turtle
  7. Box turtle

What is the best turtle for first time owners?

Red-eared slider turtles make great pets for first time owners due to their hardiness and ease of care. With proper setup and maintenance, these turtles can live for over 20 years!

Do turtles like to be petted?

Turtles are generally shy creatures and don’t usually appreciate being petted. While some turtles may tolerate a few gentle strokes, it’s best to avoid touching them in general. Even if a turtle seems comfortable with being touched initially, it can become stressed out if handled too much.

The best way to interact with a turtle is by providing it with food or toys that it can interact with on its own terms.