The Red Eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) in New Zealand

Red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been present in New Zealand for over fifty years. In that time at least 110,000 hatchlings have been bred or imported. Importation was banned in 1965 but smuggling was significant until the mid 1980s. Since then, about 2000 animals have been bred in New Zealand for the pet trade each year. Demand always exceeded supply until this year’s negative publicity. Red-eared turtles have strict requirements for survival and growth. Despite their cost high cost, it’s doubtful that survival of hatchlings in captivity exceeds 5-10%. Adult animals that escape, or are released, probably cannot reproduce because of poor fertility, dry summer soils and the low temperatures in New Zealand. Because of these low temperatures, any eggs that do hatch in suitable microclimates will produce exclusively males. Many adult red-ears found in the “wild” are emaciated and infected with ulcerative shell disease, suggesting that animals frequently dies within a few years of escaping captivity. I have been unable to detect evidence of reproduction or colony formation anywhere in NZ. When turtles are discovered in the “wild” they are almost always in warm water habitats previously altered or created by man (drains, farm ponds, weed infested streams). Most of the problems with red-eared slider turtles overseas have occurred in countries where millions were imported and released. This has not been the case in New Zealand. It is doubtful they could have much, if any, impact on unmodified environments in New Zealand.

Author Feldman, M. I.
Date 2005-05-02
Year 2005
Secondary title 13th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference
Place published Wellington, NZ
Publisher Landcare Research
Pages 96-101
Region NZ
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