Live Tortoises in Sealed Bag Souvenirs: Inhumane Practice Exposed

Sunday, February 12, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 18 Comments

Little baby tortoises are being sold in airtight bags as souvenirs, courtesy of vendors and businessmen in China. Pictures such as the one below are circulating in different social networks, with people appealing to different animal rights activists to help put a stop to the barbaric practice. But is this a hoax, or is this happening for real?

baby tortoise still alive in sealed bag

Sadly, it seems to be the real deal.

Baby turtles (or tortoises – I don’t know which ones exactly) are captured, immersed in colored water in a bag which is then sealed and sold as souvenirs in certain cities in China. They are sold as key chains to many tourists.

baby fish in sealed bags

Other souvenirs being sold include baby Kingfish or goldfish. The bag they are sealed in contains water that is supposedly nutrient-rich. Vendors will claim that the fish or turtles can live in the sealed bag for weeks to months. But I don’t see how they can live beyond a few days if no oxygen gets into the bag.

Well, that’s beside the point. These animals are alive – and they are kept in a bag, meant to suffocate to death as they are “kept as souvenirs or key chains”. It seems like unnecessary animal torture to me.

Sources online say that once the baby tortoise or turtle in the keychain dies, you can microwave them and eat them as a snack. Uh, yeah, that’s a fitting end to animal torture, yes? After all, we don’t want the poor tortured animals to go to waste. (Of course, I’m being sarcastic here.)baby tortoise keychain in sealed bag

These key chains and souvenirs of little tortoises in sealed plastic bags are sold in many subway stations in China. According to their laws, it’s not exactly animal abuse. One spokesperson even said they will probably run out of oxygen anyway before the water’s nutrients are used up, so there’s no need to worry. To that, I say in utmost sarcasm, “Oh, wow, big relief!”

If you have any leads regarding this news bit (as to whether or not the facts I stated here are 100% true or if it’s all just some hoax), AND if you know of any animal rights groups who might want to help put a stop to it in case it’s all true, let me know by leaving a comment.

You can help spread awareness and put a stop to this. (You can share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ through the share buttons below.) The idea of Chinese vendors selling sealed bags of breathing and living baby tortoises and fish that are meant to suffocate to death will bring me many nightmares.

Please like my Facebook page and help me spread the word. You can like the pages of popular celebs and athletes, so why not like mine and help me make a difference? Go for it:

Please like this article and get others to read it. It’s time we took a stand about the abused animals that are supposed to be under our stewardship – share this story with others who you know will care:

Let us all show that we CARE. Please spread the word. Your voice counts. Let’s all use our internet presence to help these poor animals.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and contributes to The Manila Bulletin. Add her to your circles.


  1. Oh, that is just so sick. You are right,that's unnecessary animal abuse. Poor lil things. :(

  2. tsk,tsk,tsk....this is too much....does little animals also deserve to live.

  3. Well, apparently, money talks a whole lot. They don't care about those animals as long as they earn a buck from them. Tsk.

  4. I happen to love amphibious animals and I find this to be a terrible waste of life. But it is China not the USA so I think the most we can do get people to stop buying them. If we do that then there is no demand and they will disappear from the market.

  5. They're turtles. Tortoises are land-only creatures, turtles mostly live in the water but climb out to bask on rocks and such.

  6. that's abusive they must be arrested.

  7. AC, are you from the U.S.? China says what they're doing is legal, sad to say. But not everything legal is moral, as we already know.

    Abby, I'm not sure if it's just turtles that they use inside the bags of water. Could it be that even if tortoises are land-based, they may still be used inside souvenir bags? I mean, if baby tortoises get picked for this, then they can't exactly complain that they're supposed to be on land, right?

    Anonymous, it's just sad that the word abuse is interpreted in so many ways, and to these vendors, there's nothing abusive about what they're doing to these poor animals. :(

  8. Steph, you have such a kind heart! I can't imagine ever taking care of young sparrows or of writing so many articles on caring for animals!
    You are truly a doctor in every sense of the word. You touch people and you heal. I hope all bloggers and doctors are like you!

  9. there turtles no tortoises

  10. So... buy one & set it free. Is that not an option? I'm sure that's what many people do. It'd be a huge waste of money otherwise to just let it die. My reasoning atleast...

  11. Waleli, if you buy a souvenir, it will give more money to the person who sold it, therefore encouraging him to catch more turtles later. After all, his "business" seems to profit IF everyone buys these turtle souvenirs, even if it's to free the turtles. Every turtle souvenir you buy means extra money for the seller to prepare way more souvenirs later.

    So no, please DON'T buy these souvenirs. It's like paying terrorists to stop terrorizing your country: it's going to give them more money and it will NOT stop them. If anything, it will convince them that hey, their method works - and they'll keep doing it all the more.

  12. Please STOP!!!! Buying the turtles in the bags and also if you buy it to set it free the people selling it are just going to keep on selling because they are getting lots of money for it ,it is so sad every one needs to put a stop to it NOW!!!! they are turtles because I have a tortoise called George and they are land animals but who is to say they do not just put tortoises in there anyway. By Emma Someone who cares

  13. CORRECT, Emma. I don't understand why people would think that buying a souvenir and setting the turtle free would actually "help". >_< For every turtle "set free" this way, two more are captured.

  14. how sad for these cute critters! no air, food and left to slowly die in their own waste!

  15. That is discusting but don't bye one because if you do they will just carry on because they are earning money for it . I think it is so sad because I have a tortoise of my own it is horrible the way they treat them.

  16. A cruel death for the sake of a few cents profit and a few days, maybe weeks of excitement!


  18. Why dont you discuss the true problem here.......the Chinese....many many endangered species in the world at the moment.....Sharks, abelone, tigers etc etc are all being killed because either parts of their bodies are a delicacy to eat e.g. shark fin soup, oshark is killed ust for the finn which is basically tasteless anyway OR because they are used in chinese herbal medicine...NONE of which is back up by any scientific fact.

    Stop whining on about 1 type of animal and the vendors selling them and start to focus on the real problem....this messed up race of people!!