Editorial – Turtle theft

This week's editorial discusses the Albertan couples that collected 15 painted turtles from B.C. to take home with them.

Last week, three couples from Alberta were caught poaching turtles. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was something from a parody news source, such as The Onion or CBC’s This is That. And while it was from the CBC, it was anything but a farce.

According to the CBC news report, the Albertan couples were fined over $1,000 after they admitted to catching turtles from a British Columbia lake. Their intention with the turtles was to keep them as pets and to maybe give them away to friends.

They had collected 15 painted turtles when RCMP caught up with them at a lake outside of Canal Flats.

The Mounties were just making sure the tourists had valid fishing licenses, but saw they had caught these little turtles – not fish.

This story, in all of its absurdity, brings up some ethical issues. Painted turtles are a “special concern” in Canada, and the regulating body of the Committee of the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada are worried they will soon be on the endangered species list.

While the travellers could claim ignorance and say they didn’t know their prized turtles are a pseudo-protected species, it should also be asked why they thought it would be okay at all? Is turtle catching so commonplace in Alberta to the point where they believed it to be ubiquitous across Canada?  At the same time, I would like to ask who would want a pet turtle from B.C. as a souvenir from their friends’ road trip?

But what this story really underlines is the lack of common sense when it comes to taking wildlife, especially from another province or area, for granted. What may be a common predator in one area might be a cherished animal in another. And travellers have to be aware of these differences before they go claiming these animals for themselves.

The CBC report stated the travellers were apologetic after learning of their error, but there is something to be said for being informed rather than apologetic. With summer in full swing and people embarking on their final summer vacations for the year, it would be useful for everyone to remember that what might be accepted and even encouraged in your neck of the woods might not be okay in the place you’re visiting – the place you are a guest in. Instead of claiming ignorance, it would be worthwhile to ask – ask a local or someone at the Visitor’s Centre. People will be quick to let you know.

Also, please don’t collect turtles to give to friends, no matter what the local practice is.