Hoaxes & Rumors

Live Turtle Key Chains? They’re Real.

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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