25 Mar 2020
Cute little pet or dreaded invasive species? The Red-eared Slider Turtle fits both bills.
The Authority had recent dealings with one such turtle. Originating from the midwestern states of USA and northeastern Mexico, this turtle has been a popular pet internationally since the 1970s as they are very attractive when small, and easy to care for. However, when they are no longer cute and become capable of biting their owners, they are irresponsibly dumped and consequently now occur in freshwater urban wetlands across the world, where they have the ‘honour’ of being listed as one of the world’s worst invasive alien species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Like many other introduced species, the Red-eared Slider Turtle is highly adaptable, and quick to take over new areas and outcompete native species for food and shelter. The species is omnivorous, eating plants but also aquatic invertebrates, fish, frog eggs and tadpoles - certainly not a species we want around our endangered Green and Golden Bell Frogs!
How do you identify a Red-eared Slider Turtle? Look for yellow stripes on their faces and front legs, and often a distinctive, broad red/orange patch behind each eye, although this feature fades with age. That was the case with the turtle rescued by a member of the public on the road and given to one of the Authority’s Park Rangers. The quick-thinking Ranger realised that the turtle’s head retracted straight back into its shell, rather than folding sideways into the shell like a native turtle, and it was also quite a bit larger than the Eastern Long-necked Turtle, the most commonly seen native turtle in the Park. However, the red patch wasn’t there. To prevent accidental release of a pest species into the Park’s wetlands the Authority kept the turtle at a friendly local vet clinic and contacted the Australian Herpetological Society (AHS) for help. AHS is a community partner that has assisted the Authority with reptile research since 2004, and was quick in providing a positive ID.
Due to its status as a pest species, it is illegal to keep Red-eared Slider Turtles unless authorised by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) for research or exhibition purposes. AHS licenced member Kane Durrant was able to pick up the turtle and arrange its transfer to DPI. We would like to thank Kane and Frank from AHS for assisting the Authority so promptly to ensure our wetlands are protected from invasive species.
For more information on the Red-eared Slider Turtle, please visit the DPI website. If you come across a turtle that is injured or in an unsafe location in the Park, please contact Park Rangers on 0408 864 798 for assistance. Outside of the Park, please contact WIRES or Sydney Wildlife.
|5. The Red-eared Slider Turtle’s head retracts straight back into the shell
||6. The plastron (underside) of the turtle is bright yellow with 12 segments
||7. The dome-shaped carapace (shell) of the invasive Red-eared Slider Turtle