Hoaxes & Rumors

Live Turtle Key Chains? They’re Real.

This image saw heavy sharing on Facebook in 2013.
Live Turtle Key Chains? They’re Real.

Today we’ll look at an image which has circulated on Facebook for years which shows a key chain being sold in China that contains a live baby turtle. Is this image real or fake?

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It’s real, but it’s not a new development.

A similar keychain (or key ring, as some call it) containing live goldfish was discussed in this article published by the Sun back in 2008. The turtle variety was also written about in 2011 by the New Zealand Herald, in this article, which is when the topic became widely circulated on social media (see below).

Vendors selling these items have claimed that the turtles are swimming in a pool of nutrients which will keep them alive for months. It has been pointed, however, out that the turtles would suffocate much sooner than that. Bathing in nutrients is also not the manner in which turtles survive.

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Facebook Post

An image of one of these keychains has been shared heavily on Facebook. One post had nearly 40,000 shares in a single day. It contained a caption which reads:

In China, various turtles and fish are sold alive in small plastic bags as trinkets. The bags are sealed, and the customers are informed that the animal will live for several months. Sadly, this isn’t true and they’re likely to expire within a few hours due to a lack of oxygen.

I don’t often get on my high horse, but this story has truly appalled me. While the vendors are unlikely to be on Facebook (mostly because Facebook is banned in China) they are selling to tourists and travelers – please make sure you’re never tempted to buy ANYTHING like this as a souvenir and spread the information to your friends.


Some have suggested they might buy the products in order to set the turtles free, however others have pointed out that this would only encourage the manufacturer to produce more.

We have been able to find images of other live creatures such as salamanders being used (see image below).

The practice is legal in China.


Below is a short video showing a key chain with a live turtle.

Search History

As you can see from the Google Trends graph below, interest in the topic dates back to April 2011, and has had several peaks in interest since then.

Bottom Line

It’s true that some vendors in China sell keychains and other products containing live turtles and other creatures. Despite social media outrage on the topic, the practice is legal in China.

Do you have anything to add to this story? Please drop us a comment below!

Updated May 19, 2016
Originally published March 2013

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  • Karela

    I would be more than happy to buy them just to release them – but that is probably what they want you to do.

  • Melanie G.

    China is allowed to produce and sell harmful children’s toys and other products to the world so I am not surprised this is legal. As sad as it is,they will probably continue to sell these as long as someone is buying them. The only real way to get China to care is to not buy any of their crap.

  • chris k

    These people are the scum of the earth and they are also eating our lunch. Environmental offenders to the worst degree.

  • RosielovesPatch

    Um… Cannibalism was widely practiced in different cultures all over the world for thousands of years. Some places still practice it now. Eating human meat, though highly disgusting and disturbing, will not make you sick. Ever heard of a movie called Alive? It’s based on a true story of a group of survivors in a plane crash who survived on the flesh of the dead passengers. They survived this way.If it’d made them sick they would’ve died. get some better arguments. They were white Americans or Canadians btw.

  • Baffled

    Didn’t you read the article? That will only create more ‘demand’. If NO ONE buys these then the manufacturers would have no reason to make them anymore.

  • Jesse Contreras

    I might be wrong but I think the key chain is a temp packaging system; where those animals are sealed in there bags right before the sales day and released into a holding tank at the end of a short time period, with sales being driven by kids and animal lovers to purchase a living creature to set it free. Either way this is a horrible act.

  • Akiko

    It’s not a hoax. They are VERY popular in Shanghai, I’ve seen them MULTIPLE times in my travels to China. It would be nice if people would stop calling people idiots, and claiming to know what is what, without having even been to China at all.

  • TinyKaur

    What BobFrench said. Thanks mate.

  • aguy

    So am I the only one who is glad if the nutrient thing is a lie and they actually suffocate in a few hours? Seems far crueler to me to keep them alive for months in a tiny keychain.

    This is really horrifying, actually.

    • Melanie G.

      I know this is an old comment,but I agree. I can’t believe how cruel some people are.

  • Gordon Muir

    I wonder if it’s legal to fly to China and punch one of these guys in the face

  • John smith

    I think this thing is pretty cool. Get me one!

  • swayze

    We evolved, we weren’t made…
    lets start this debate, could be fun…

  • Sylvia

    Appalled is the right word. Otherwise I’m speechless and cannot believe people and tourists buy them. I spit on them all. Better, I s**t on them all.

  • Wow

    if I ever go there I will buy as many as possible, cut them out of their sack, and take them home.
    That is just plain cruelty.

    • Ben

      Not only is it common sense but it is spelled out for you to NOT purchase these. You think because you save one of them another 5 aren’t going to take its place when you just fueled the demand? People like you are part of the reason this trade is as successful as it is.

      If you want to send a message to people, start trashing their stand/store and stealing the animals. If you can’t do that, tell others who go to purchase these items exactly why they’re worthless garbage parading themselves around as a higher life form. If you can’t do that, just keep walking.

      • Mjan

        Not implying you should use violence by the way. Merely referring to how increasing the demand, increases the supply and therefore the animal cruelty.

  • Timothy Campbell

    It sounds like that might be one of the most cold-hearted scams I’ve ever heard of. This month, anyway.

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