Red-eared terrapins threaten our biodiversity

Adult red-eared terrapins (Trachemys scripta elegans). Adult red-eared terrapins (Trachemys scripta elegans).

Banned by many provincial conservation departments, the highly invasive red-eared slider (or red-eared terrapin) (Trachemys scripta elegans) is once again gaining popularity in the pet trade, with several pet shops and breeders advertising these reptiles for sale in Durban and Johannesburg. 

This terrapin is listed on the proposed NEMBA regulations as a Category 1a, meaning that it is an invasive species requiring compulsory control. (Published in the Government Gazette, 3 April 2009). It is also listed as a ‘prohibited exotic animal’ under Gauteng nature conservation legislation.

The Environmental Programmes’ Nursery and Pet Trade Partnership is working closely with the pet trade to address issues of not only invasive plants, but invasive animals as well. A partnership has been formed with the South African Pet Traders Association (SAPTA), which represents the interests and concerns of the pet trade in South Africa.

 Red-eared terrapins 1

At the recent Herpetological Association of Africa symposium hosted by the National Zoo in Pretoria, researchers from North West University presented a paper on the terrapin trade, which highlighted the threat terrapins pose in transmitting diseases and parasites to other indigenous terrapins and tortoises.

The exotic red-eared slider is very popular, as it is hardy and easy to keep in captivity. The young are beautifully marked with green, red and yellow. However, they soon outgrow their aquarium and the bright colours fade. Many are then released into the nearest river or dam. 

They have been found in wetland systems around Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, and more recently a suspected population has been reported from a farm dam near Brits in North West Province. They have become serious invasive species in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Red-eared terrapins threaten our indigenous terrapins through competition for resources as well as introductions of parasites and diseases.

Read 10054 times Last modified on Friday, 08 March 2013 11:42