Overcrowding killing off the terrapins at Madrid’s Atocha station

More than 250 of the reptiles are packed into the infected water of the hub’s tiny pond

Video: The terrapins in the Atocha station pond.VIDEO: jcsl

Each year, around 15 million people pass through Madrid’s Atocha railway station and many of them will no doubt be aware of the tropical gardens created under the 19th-century wrought iron-and-glass entrance hall that is also home to a community of terrapins.

Over the last two decades, people have been abandoning unwanted specimens of this fresh-water member of the turtle family in the pond. As a result, the colony has grown considerably, and there are now around 250 animals packed into a tiny area of water.

Staff try to remove items as quickly as possible during the week, but usually find several lifeless terrapins floating in the water each Monday morning

The overcrowding has led to the water becoming infected, either from food thrown by people, or from dead animals. Staff try to remove items as quickly as possible, at least during weekdays, but as they do not work weekends, there are usually several lifeless terrapins floating in the water by Monday morning.

In response to the worsening situation and the plight of the animals, campaigns have been set up on Change.org and Facebook calling on Adif, the company responsible for Spain’s railway infrastructure to provide better living conditions for the reptiles.

Campaigners met with Adif representatives on July 22, and were told that the company had carried out improvements, such as better water oxygenation and recirculation. “The terrapins are fed and subject to veterinary checks. The surface water is cleaned every day,” says an Adif spokesman.

Among Adif’s proposals were to keep the numbers of terrapins at present levels by installing measures to prevent the public from abandoning animals there; setting up an adoption scheme; separating males and females; and to further improve water quality by installing a new filtration system in the tank.