Day 31 7/26/2013: The Turtles of Chinatown

First: Good news for Sharks Today. New York signed its Shark Fin Ban into law today.

I went to L.A.’s Chinatown today to see if I could see shark fin for sale anywhere after California’s ban.  I saw dried sea horses, dried starfish, dried octopus. I found one bag of what looked like shark fin, but the price seemed very low and the man who ran the shop was asleep behind the counter. I checked a couple restaurant menus and didn’t see shark fin soup.

Then I saw the turtles—tiny, illegal baby red slider turtles in an ounce of water or so —little plastic “aquariums” outfitted with tiny plastic islands $4, $6, $7–every single one struggling endlessly against a plastic wall.

I thought of Sysiphus pushing his boulder up the hill—of the seemingly endless instances of animal suffering in the world. I wondered how or I could (or if I should) develop tougher psychic armor so as not to get completely depressed when I see doomed lobsters in restaurant tanks, pet stores with dirty aquariums overflowing with baby rabbits, chicks and ducklings. (I did report that pet shop to the SPCA).

As I walked around the gift stores I felt my own sense of futility: No matter how much their captivity depressed me, I couldn’t release these turtles into the wild. I remembered a ranger at Franklin Canyon telling me how often people let Chinatown turtles go in the lake there and screw up the ecosystem. The babies can carry salmonella, which is why I think the sale of these turtles is illegal. They also grow to be pretty big, a fact that is seldom disclosed by the vendors in these odd gift shops.

The guy at the pet shop near my house recommended that I call a reptile rescue and report the vendors to animal control. His shop is overrun with donated (adult) red sliders that they are now selling at a discount.

But there is another dilemma: if I buy the turtles in Chinatown and give them to the rescue, does that mean I am encouraging those vendors to purchase more of them? I left messages with a couple herpetology rescues and eagerly await their guidance. In the meantime, I worked on organizing the “Jaws” benefit.

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