Turtles and tarantulas dumped in royal park
CROWDS have long flocked to see herds of deer grazing in its grasslands. Now London’s Richmond Park has a new and rather unwelcome claim to fame – after becoming a dumping ground for exotic pets.
Turtles, chinchillas, gerbils, tarantulas and even a goat are among the creatures discovered at the city’s largest royal park after being abandoned by their owners.
Not only are the pets at risk of starving or being eaten by predators, their arrival also disrupts the delicate ecosystem of the 2,500-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest, rangers warned.
And visitors risk damaging the park’s waterways by emptying non-native species such as terrapins and aquatic weeds into ponds and streams.
Assistant park manager Adam Curtis said: ‘We don’t come across an awful lot of abandoned pets, but when we do, we’ll work with rescue and re-homing agencies to find them new homes. We do find the odd hamster or rabbit that might have escaped. Very occasionally over the years we’ve come across an abandoned dog, often in need of medical care. We once discovered a snapping turtle.
‘There is a problem with people emptying their aquariums in our ponds. While a goldfish is likely to be a tasty meal for a local pike, there is a more serious problem because people can introduce new invasive species.’ The issue was raised in the memoirs of former royal parks gamekeeper John Bartram, who found two chinchillas, a six-foot American corn snake, a black gerbil and a tarantula during his 30-year career.
A colleague also found a half-starved goat abandoned by a couple who were later convicted of animal cruelty charges, he wrote in the book.
Mr Curtis added: ‘You should never release an animal into the wild. Domestic pets are unlikely to survive the winter.’