Red-eared slider turtle captured after year-long hunt
A reptilian invader was successfully removed from the Yarra River in Abbotsford by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) at the beginning of October.
Originally spotted by a kayaker near the Collingwood Children's Farm in October last year, the citizen conservationist sent in a photo of the animal, which DEPI experts immediately recognised as the highly invasive species Trachemys scripta elegans, or red-eared slider turtle.
Biosecurity Manager, High Risk Invasive Animals, Adam Kay said: “Based on this information, DEPI was able to confirm that the animal was a red-eared slider turtle, an exotic high-risk invasive species, and begin surveillance and control work.”
However, despite multiple sightings and a range of traps being set, the "elusive turtle remained at large" until the first week of October this year when it was captured by DEPI.
Originating from North America, these turtles have had devastating effects on other ecosystems due to their aggressive preying on native frogs and fish, prolific breeding habits and competing with native turtle species.
“Red-eared Slider Turtles can also carry exotic diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to native wildlife and even humans," Kay said.
Although a trace-back investigation was conducted by the DEPI, it was unable to determine precisely how the animal came to be in the Yarra, but according to Kay the mostly likely means is either a deliberate or accidental release as a result of someone illegally keeping the turtle as a pet.
"In Victoria a total of 65 red-eared slider turtles have been seized, handed in or removed from the wild since 2001," he said. "Constant vigilance, early detection and response is critical to ensuring this species does not establish in Victoria. The latest turtle captured from the Yarra highlights the risks posed by the illegal keeping of exotic animals."
Under the Catchment and Land Protection Act (1994), the penalty for bringing into Victoria, keeping or selling 'prohibited' pest animals is a fine of more than $70,000, while a 'controlled' pest animals garners a fine of $35,000 (the Red-eared Slider Turtle is classified as 'controlled').
"Other examples of invasive species seized in Victoria in recent years include cane toads, eastern corn snakes and boa constrictors," says Kay.
To learn more about pest species and their classification, click here.