Council Targets Abandoned Pet Turtles In Cooks Beach Ponds
Turtles residing in ponds at Cooks Beach will soon have their own basking platform designed to trap them.
Waikato Regional Council is asking visitors and residents to please stay clear of the floating trap which is made from downpipes around a basket and will be installed after Waitangi Day.
“It’s not rubbish,” says Biosecurity Officer Andrew McConnell. “We’re asking people not to go near the trap; the more undisturbed it is, the more likely we’ll catch turtles. The turtles need to become accustomed to it.”
The regional council has had reports from locals for a number of years about red-eared slider turtles basking on pontoons in the ponds.
Mr McConnell says red-eared sliders are among the top 100 worst invasive species in the world.
“Like a lot of pests, they are highly adaptable and can tolerate a wide variety of aquatic environment. As omnivores they can impact a wide variety of aquatic plants, insects, eels and small fish species. Essentially, they’re another competitor in an already stressed environment.”
Pet turtles were allowed for sale in New Zealand because it was thought the climate was too cold for their eggs to successfully incubate and hatch.
However, turtle eggs and hatchlings have been sighted at Cook’s Beach.
“Pet sales of red eared sliders took off a number of years ago when they featured in a Spark ad,” says Mr McConnell.
“But a cute baby turtle can grow up to the size of a dinner plate, requires great effort to look after in a tank, and can live 20-30 years.
“As a result, their cuteness and easy-care factor ends pretty quickly. When people don’t want them anymore, they don’t know what to do with them; they let them go into the wild, which is actually illegal. Places where you see or have heard red eared sliders reside tend to be attractive dumping spots, hence the growing problem at Cooks Beach.”
The floating platform has ramps so turtles can get up on it. Catching a turtle will then depend on which way it slides back into the water.
Concerned residents are helping the regional council to check the trap on a regularly basis.
“With a little luck and the help of locals, we should be able to catch these turtles and nip the problem in the bud.
Mr McConnell says he has been in touch with turtle rescues in New Zealand and they are willing to take and rehome any turtles caught.
The regional council asks people to please report any other red eared slider turtle sightings to Andrew McConnell on 0800 800 401.