Peanut The Turtle Still Alive And Saving The World's Oceans

Rescued in 1993, Peanut the red-eared slider had a plastic six-pack holder embedded in her shell. / Missouri Department of Conservation

You may have spotted images of this unusual turtle floating around the Internet before, but do you know her heartwarming story?

It all began in the 1980s when Peanut the turtle, a baby red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), was swimming in the waters of Missouri. As a semi-aquatic species, red-eared sliders can roam on land and swim in ponds or slow-flowing waters. In fact, they were named ‘sliders’ for their ability to slide off rocks and into the water quickly.

Unfortunately for Peanut, she became entangled in a plastic ring of a six-pack holder. Peanut continued to grow, although the plastic debris held fast around her middle, causing her shell to become deformed and giving it an hourglass, peanut-like shape. Lacking the aerodynamic, domed form of a normal turtle, Peanut was highly vulnerable to attacks from predators.

But Peanut’s story takes a turn for the better. In 1993, Peanut was rescued and cut free from her restraint. And more than 20 years on, she’s still alive and carrying with her an important message. 


The severity of deformation was more apparent once the plastic holder was removed. Image Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation.

"People see her and learn her story, and they get it," said Peanut's handler, Amy Wilkinson from the Missouri Department of Conservation, to The Dodo. "She's a great example of why not to litter."

The intrepid turtle became the face of Missouri’s No More Trash campaign, warning the public of the dangers that littering poses to marine life. Peanut will never fully recover from her physical impediment or be able to return to the wild. But this curvy reptile serves as a reminder that even a single piece of litter can irreparably change a life.


Healthy and happy, Peanut swims free of the plastic. Image Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation.

"I see her image all over the internet," said Wilkinson. "She is used in litter campaigns throughout the world. She's doing really well. I would describe her as a feisty turtle. [But] I feel like even when she dies, we'll always have her as a way of teaching people about the effect litter can have on wildlife."

Peanut’s plight and environmental message is especially poignant as World Oceans Day is June 8.

[H/T The Dodo]

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