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Watch out for red-eared sliders

Watch out for red-eared sliders

5 November 2004

Aucklanders are being asked to look out for red-eared slider turtles after ARC Biosecurity Officers caught one near Bethells Beach this week.

ARC biosecurity manager Jack Craw says the popular pets become pests when they are released into the wild and have the potential to impact on native plants and animals.

"They have established feral populations in countries with temperate climates like ours so there is a real possibility they could establish here," Mr Craw says. "This species has been nominated as among 100 of the world's worst invaders and has been banned from importation into many countries."

The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), also known as the red-eared terrapin, is a native of the Mississippi Valley area of the United States.

Bethells Beach residents notified the ARC when they spotted one of the turtles, about the size of a rugby ball, basking beside a stream in Bethells Valley.

Mr Craw suspects other red-eared sliders may have been released into the wild around Auckland.

"Because the turtles grow quite big, they sometimes outgrow their appeal as pets and people are tempted to release them into the wild," he says.

"I would strongly urge people not to release them and I would ask anyone who sees a red-eared slider in the wild to call the ARC immediately.

Red-eared sliders get their name from a broad red stripe behind their eye and their habit of sliding off rocks and logs when startled. They mainly feed on aquatic plants, small fish and decaying material. Average adult size is 12.5 * 20cm with a life span of 15 * 25 years. They can carry the disease salmonella and adult specimens can inflict a painful bite. Sliders have poor hearing but are very sensitive to vibrations, which make it hard to sneak up on them.

The red-eared slider rarely ventures out of the water except to lay its eggs or to migrate to a new water body. It is commonly seen basking in the sun, on logs or masses of vegetation. They are at home in quiet, freshwater systems that have a muddy bottom and abundant aquatic vegetation.

ENDS

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