A small army of volunteers and the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA recently captured the last known red-eared slider turtle in Western Australia. A keen-eyed local resident reported sighting the turtle in a pond in late October, leading to its capture.
Not native to Australia, the red-eared slider is a freshwater turtle with a distinctive red stripe behind each eye. The turtles can grow to about 30 cm in length and has an average life span of 30 to 40 years. Unlike native turtles, sliders can retract their head into their shell.
According to DAFWA biosecurity officer Glen Coupar, the turtle would still be at large if not for the help of the Marangaroo Buddhist Cultural Centre – Pho Quang Temple community, who helped capture the pest. “The turtle was reported to us earlier in the year but evaded our traditional traps,” Mr Coupar said.
“It took a community effort to help drain the pond, remove the plants and relocate the native wildlife”.
“This is a great example of the collaborative work by community groups, the public and the government to minimise biosecurity threats to Australia” Mr Coupar said.
National Incursion Response Facilitator for Invasive Animals CRC, Dr. Michelle Christy, said the turtle was either illegally brought to Australia or captive-bred as part of the illegal pet trade.
“Although listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, red-eared slider turtles are globally one of the most widely kept pet animal. They become established mainly because owners release their pets in the wild when they get too big for their tanks or lose their appeal”.
The illegal keeping and trading of the species threatens Australia’s biodiversity. The turtle is known to aggressively compete with native turtles for food and favoured basking sites, and prey on frogs, birds, and other native species.
Western Australia is not the only place sliders have been found in the wild. Small numbers have been found in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Queensland.
The penalty for illegal possession under national environment law is up to five years gaol and/or a fine of up to $110,000.