Cowabunga! Keep an eye out for invasive turtle
The community is encouraged to report any sightings of red-eared slider turtles, made popular by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics, after the highly invasive species was spotted on the streets of North Beach at Wallaroo recently.
Originally from Mexico, the south-eastern United States and parts of Central America, the red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) is an alert pest animal in South Australia because of its ability to quickly adapt to the environment, breed prolifically and spread rapidly throughout much of Australia.
Natural Resources Northern and Yorke Landscapes Ranger Janet Moore said that as well as carrying diseases that can infect native turtles, the red-eared slider turtle aggressively competes with native species for food and basking sites and can hamper native turtle breeding success by competing for nesting sites and eating hatchlings.
"If the red-eared slider turtle were allowed to establish even a small population in the region, it would be a very costly exercise to recover and we urge people to report any suspected sightings immediately," Ms Moore said.
"The species are very aggressive hunters that may cause serious loss of aquatic biodiversity, preying on frogs, fish and native turtles."
The red-eared slider turtle is a declared species under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. It may not be held, traded or released in South Australia without specific authorisation.
"Anyone caught keeping, importing or trading the pest turtles could face a $50,000 fine or a year in jail," Ms Moore said.
The turtle is identifiable by a distinctive, broad red or orange stripe behind each eye, and narrow yellow stripes marking the rest of the head and legs, as well as yellow patterning on its dome-shaped shell.
Biosecurity Officer, Pest Animals at PIRSA Biosecurity SA, Lindell Andrews said the quick response by residents at Wallaroo meant that the turtle was promptly secured by NRNY staff and transported to the Invasive Species Unit of PIRSA Biosecurity.
"Thanks to the action taken by members of the public, we can now undertake further research into the source of the turtle, which will aid in preventing further incursions of this species," Ms Andrews said.
"The turtle appeared to have been living in the wild for some time, so it is a relief to have it off the streets."
If you suspect you have seen a red-eared slider turtle, please report it immediately to the Pest Alert Hotline 1800 084 881, PIRSA Biosecurity SA on 08 8303 9620 or the Clare Natural Resource Centre on 08 8841 3444.