You can make a difference for turtles by purchasing Molly's Turtle Soap. All proceeds support native NC turtles, their habitat, and conservation education. Give a gift that gives twice!
Molly's Turtle Soap can be purchased/ordered here:
Hemlock Bluffs - 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd, Cary, 919-387-5980
NC Museum of Natural Sciences and the Nature Research Center -
11 W. Jones St, Raleigh, 919-733-7450 ext. 369
McDowell Nature Center - 15222 York Rd, Charlotte, 704-588-5224
BHI Conservancy - 700 Federal Rd, Bald Head Island,
Hammocks Beach State Park - 1572 Hammocks Beach Rd, Swansboro, 910-326-4881
Bass Lake Park, Holly Springs - Turtle Fest is held every May
Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project - 888-290-1065
Contact Molly at info@raleighaquaticturtleadoption if you would like to have STEM Leadership Camp next summer at your school, museum, or park.
In 2006, Molly's family adopted two red-eared sliders (RES) named Bella and Ella. As Molly learned more about keeping turtles she not only developed a passion for all aquatic creatures but also became aware that few organizations exist which help to re-home pet turtles. These pets can live for a decade or more and there are few resources available in the US to help owners who can no longer keep their turtles. Raleigh Aquatic Turtle Adoption (RATA) was born when Wimbley and Abby joined Bella and Ella in "Lab 15" which is the room where Molly tends to many of her aquatic pets.
For many reasons, pet turtles should not be released into the wild. RATA helps individuals re-home their freshwater, pet turtles. As we are not a rescue organization, our primary work is facilitating turtle adoptions. Even though we are based in North Carolina's Piedmont region we have worked with families and schools from California to Chicago to New York.
I thought it was illegal to sell baby turtles, how does this still happen? Many stores avoid the 4" shell regulation by 'giving' the turtle to customers with the purchase of a tank. If no one purchased these tanks and turtles, store would no longer sell. them. A baby turtle starts out the size of a quarter but can lend up being as large as a salad plate and live for decades. Please do not buy a baby turtle at the beach.
How can I get my turtle to you? Send an email to email@example.com with a picture of your turtle. You can bring the turtle to us or ship it via UPS or Fed Ex (shipping generally costs around $50 for one turtle). We cannot receive shipped turtles during July-September or in December.
How can I adopt a turtle? Send an email to
Do you send turtles? We do not send turtles.
Do you charge fees? We do not charge fees of any kind.
Do I need to donate the tank? Yes, typically we need everything you've been using with your turtle, meaning the tank, filter, lights, etc. The turtle and entire habitat will go to a new family or classroom. Please know that if you are keeping a turtle in anything larger than a 40 gallon tank, that will pose an adoption challenge as many people can't have a tank that big in their home (including us). Placing a very large turtle and tank can take months. We no longer take in turtles that have outgrown indoor enclosures because our pond is at capacity. Also, if you are not currently housing your turtle in a complete habitat (e.g. you do not have the tank, filter, etc to donate) then you will need to keep the turtle until we can find a family that already has a habitat in place and is simply wanting a turtle.
What turtles do you adopt? We adopt many kinds of freshwater turtles but unfortunately we cannot take snapping turtles. If you need to re-home your snapping turtle try contacting Reptile Rescue of the Carolinas or CCSB Reptile Rescue.
Where do you keep your turtles? Small turtles are housed in "Lab 15" while larger turtles swim freely in our 3,000 gallon backyard pond. Our turtle family is at capacity so we regularly foster a small number of turtles while locating new homes for them.
Won't my turtle be happier living in a large pond instead of a tank? Years ago we would've answered "Yes" to this question but we've learned that every turtle is truly different and pond life is not for all. Some turtles thrive in larger environments and others seem frightened. If a turtle seems too scared to come up to regularly bask or eat then it may not be appropriate for a large pond. We would rather see this turtle living indoors so the owner can ensure it receives what it needs on a daily basis to live a healthy life.
Can we keep a turtle in our pond? Any turtle we adopt out needs to be kept in an enclosure. Our turtle pond is completely covered with bird netting (available at hardware or gardening stores) and the perimeter is secured with flagstone. Since they eat Koi, goldfish, and decorative plants, turtles are the only things we keep in our turtle pond.
If I give up my turtle for adoption will the new family care for it the same way I do? We know you love your pet and have enjoyed caring for it. We can promise to find a new family that will cherish it as much as you have. Unfortunately, we cannot promise what the future tank size will be for your turtle or that a unique care regimen you have in place will be followed. We adopt to families that demonstrate an understanding of proper turtle care and with the space to house a minimum of a 20-40 gallon tank (or larger) depending on the size of your turtle. Requests for us to take in turtles vastly outnumber the families or classrooms wanting them as pets and because of this we can offer owners only one placement opportunity.
We can no longer care for two turtles, can they be adopted together by a new family? Most likely, no. Each turtle will have a separate placement. Many sliders are easily the size of half a cantaloupe (or larger!) when full grown and for most people it simply takes up too much space in their homes to accommodate multiple, large turtles.
I purchased a baby RES at the beach and can no longer take care of it, can it live with you? We strongly discourage purchasing baby turtles from vacation spots and coastal areas. At this time we have many RES and we actively work to re-home RES that need placement. RES that we adopt out mostly live in tanks with families or in classrooms.
Is is safe to list my turtle for adoption with a free, online classified ad? Understandably, owners want their turtle to go to a great new home. We don't see free advertising as something to be concerned about when placing your turtle. In fact, we found our first turtles by responding to that type of ad. When talking with a prospective family, use good judgement to determine whether or not your turtle would be in safe hands. Please don't automatically disqualify prospective owners who've never cared for turtles before, if that had been the case for us we would not have received Bella and Ella, and RATA would not have been created. Finally, if you're not comfortable with a prospective owner, simply move on until you find a good fit.
Since I have a water turtle, can I release it in a lake? Unfortunately, this is not only unsafe it can also be illegal (which it is in NC) Some turtles are considered invasive species meaning they have a negative impact on native turtles by competing for habitat, nesting sites and food. RES in particular are problematic in many state and around the world. Non-native turtles can introduce unwanted disease into native turtle populations. As well, your turtle may no longer be afraid of people which could lead to an unsafe encounter.
I found an injured turtle, can you help me? If you have collected an injured turtle in the wild call your local vet for contact information for a wildlife rehabber in your area or the NCSU Vet School Turtle Rescue Team
I found a baby turtle outside, is it safe out there or should I bring it indoors? As tiny and helpless as baby turtles look, it's best to leave them alone and not bring them inside. They are well-equipped with instincts to take care of themselves.
How can I keep my turtle tank clean? Water in turtle tanks stays clean when we follow three easy rules: 1) we purchased the strongest filter we could afford (it's best not to skimp on this) and we keep the filter media clean/changed, 2) we don't overfeed the turtles or give them human food as treats, and 3) we don't have decorative substrate. This means that for us, cleaning the filters (or replacing filter pads altogether) takes less than an hour of work four times a year; we only feed sticks and occasionally a cricket or minnow; and we use a minimal amount of larger (half-dollar sized) gravel and Java Moss as substrate. (Java Moss isn't for everyone, so be sure to do your research before bringing this plant home.)
2011 was the Year of the Turtle, learn more by
More about RATA
Molly's Turtle Soap is a fundraiser for North Carolina turtles, their habitat, and conservation education. Soap making was one of her Grandfather's hobbies. After he passed away, her Grandmother continued to make soap and then taught Molly. Proceeds from the sales of Molly's Turtle Soap are donated to support native turtles, their habitat and conservation education.
Member, Reptile Rescue of the Carolinas
Member, NCPARC (North Carolina Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation)
Member, NC Herpetological Association
Reptile Permit, NC Wildlife Resources Commission
More about Molly
Molly is a volunteer at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve and a Junior Curator at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. She enjoys meeting with people to talk about making backyards friendly for turtles and all of nature.
Invited Panelist, Association of Science-Technology Centers 2014 Annual Conference, Dimensions
Community Member designee, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, National Medal for Museum and Library Service, IMLS
photo by J Pishney
News & Observer Op Ed
Climb 365 Leadership Journey Honoree, Jr League of Greensboro
Prudential Spirit of Community Award, NC Honoree
President's Volunteer Service Award
NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center Student Leadership Award
The Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Council
ABC 11 Sylvan Cool Kid Award
Midtown Magazine Nov/Dec
20th Anniversary Celebration of the Stevens Nature Center, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Invited Speaker
First North Carolina Congress of Herpetology, Invited Speaker
City of Raleigh Environmental Youth Award
Certificate of Appreciation, Town of Cary
Junior League of Raleigh SPREE! Young Entrepreneur Program Winner
"Kids Who Make a Difference", Carolina Parent
NC Wildlife Federation Governor's Conservation Achievement Award, Youth Conservationist of the Year
Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero
Begins collecting signatures for her pledge: "To never buy a baby turtle at the beach, to support environmental education, to leave nature in nature, and to tell one friend about this." Nearly 1000 signatures have been collected.
The News & Observer includes turtle soap in the Holiday Gift Guide
The Cary Citizen reports that turtle soap makes a terrific stocking stuffer
RATA is five years old!