Monday, January 26, 2009

Animal cruelty at temple? Tortoises with markings may fall victim to luck-seekers

Animal cruelty at temple? Tortoises with markings may fall victim to luck-seekers
A STOMPer says these tortoises at Shuang Lin Temple with auspicious Chinese characters painted on their backs might fall victim to luck-seekers at the temple.

Says the STOMPer:

"I was testing my new camera today when I decided to take some photos at Shuang Lin temple.

"There, I found this huge "wishing well" pond where the temple staff had erected a bell underneath a red wooden sign that says 'May your wishes come true'.

"There was also a stone bowl submerged in the water beneath that sign.

"Perched precariously on the edge of this stone bowl, I found two live tortoises with some Chinese characters painted on their poor shells.

"One was 'shou', meaning longevity, while the other wasn't too clear.

"The words stood out from the dull drab green of the tortoises' shells and was very obvious.

"What visitors to the temple would do when they approach this wishing well is to throw a coin at the bell in hopes of hitting it, and if the coin strikes the bell and falls into the stone bowl, the person's wish might come true.

"I'm very worried that with these 'auspicious' characters painted on the tortoises' shells, people might try their luck at striking the tortoises with coins as well.

"There are no other animals in this pool but the tortoises, and the current in the wishing pool was also too strong, thus the poor creatures taking refuge at the stone bowl, which was the only spot for them to rest.

"I think that this is animal cruelty outright and SPCA or the relevant auhorities should be alerted about this matter."

Animal cruelty at temple? Tortoises with markings may fall victim to luck-seekers
Animal cruelty at temple? Tortoises with markings may fall victim to luck-seekers

The person who submitted this certainly does have a valid concern. Unfortunately, many people in Singapore appear to have little empathy for other species, and behave as if they are completely ignorant or oblivious to the distress suffered by animals. I won't be surprised if people end up treating the turtles* as targets for their coin projectiles.

*Turtles, not tortoises. Remind me to dedicate a post to the distinction between turtles, tortoises and terrapins one day.

What I am more concerned about though, is with the idiot who painted the shells of these red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans). I have very little patience with misguided people who carry out certain cruel actions in an attempt to bring good luck, regardless of the ecological impacts, or the suffering that animals are forced to go through.

People seem to easily forget that the shell of a turtle is composed of living, growing tissue. The two turtles in this post appear to be quite young, and at this stage, paint will seriously interfere with the normal growth of their shells, and the periodic shedding of the epidermis of the shell, leading to deformities as the turtle grows. Besides, the opaque coat of paint will definitely interfere with absorption of UV sunlight, which turtles require for healthy growth, especially when they are young. What's worse, it is likely that some of the chemicals in the paint will be absorbed into the turtle's bloodstream. And during the application stage, I'm sure the turtles must have inhaled some of the fumes. I mean, come on, it doesn't hurt to use your brain a little. Would you willingly spend the rest of your life with your back covered with a solid coat of epoxy paint or lacquer, and not expect to run into health problems sometime in the future?

What is it about turtles that makes them such common and unwitting victims of abuse? Seriously, do you really think artificially augmenting a turtle's shell is going to bring you good fortune?

If you think paint is bad, there's another disgusting practice involving the deliberate mutilation and disfiguring of turtle shells that seriously angers me.

Sometimes, wire or twine is deliberately wrapped tightly around the midsection of very young turtles, usually red-eared sliders. As the turtle grows, the wire prevents the shell in the midsection from growing outwards, while the rest of the shell continues to grow unimpeded. The shell becomes contorted and warped, misshapen until it eventually looks like the number '8' when viewed from above. And all because the pronunciation for the number '8' in some Chinese dialects is similar to that of the 发 in 发财 (get rich)! As you can see, the reasoning behind such a practice is stunningly flawless.

Here's a horrifying example:

Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and black marsh turtle (Siebenrockiella crassicollis)

Who in the right frame of mind would willingly put any living creature through such a procedure, all in the hope of getting rich one day? If I had any power, I would definitely make sure that anyone who did such a thing would be denied the fortune he or she expected, and would instead get to experience such body modification first-hand.

I dare not imagine how the turtle even manages to survive such a procedure; surely the arrangement of the internal organs must be extremely distorted. But then again, turtles are somewhat hardy and durable creatures, and can take an astonishing amount of abuse. But that certainly does not condone such backwards and barbaric behaviour. One would think that in the 21st century, our attitudes should have progressed somewhat.

The wishing pool where these turtles were found is another thing about this article that riles me. It appears that this pool is not meant to have fish or turtles swimming inside in the first place. The person who so irresponsibly dumped the turtles there could have at least picked a pond where they had a decent chance of finding something to eat. I frown upon releasing one's pet turtles, but it wouldn't take a lot of effort to pick a pond with fish, where the turtles could expect handouts from people. Or a more natural-looking pond where they could have a more natural diet. Seriously, what do you expect the turtles to eat in that virtually lifeless pool? And with the strong currents, do you even expect the turtles to be able to survive being swept around all day long? Turtles can and do drown, you know.

So yes, this certainly counts as animal abuse. Not only did the turtles' former owner compromise their health by painting their shells, he or she was irresponsible to abandon them, and to make matters worse, chose to release them in a pool where they probably can't find enough food, have to keep swimming for their lives, and might become moving targets for mean-spirited individuals. What I find ironic was that all these actions were done so that the owner could derive some form of good karma. Good karma my ass, if you'll excuse me for being crude.