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Red-eared slider: Slipping into our waters?

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Author Topic: Red-eared slider: Slipping into our waters?  (Read 475 times)
indunil
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2010, 08:05:30 am »

Read Wikipidia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-eared_slider

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indunil
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« on: October 27, 2009, 10:41:42 am »

The hobby of keeping ornamental fish in tanks and ponds has expanded into the keeping of various other aquatic animals. These include invertebrates such as shrimps, lobsters, crayfish, colourful aquatic snails, amphibians such as newts and salamanders, reptiles such as box turtles and red eared terrapins. Although many appeared in the pet fish trade in Sri Lanka from time to time, only the Golden Apple Snails, Freshwater Lobsters and the Red-eared Slider seems to have become popular with local aquarists.

The Golden Apple Snails which were kept as cleaners and for their beauty have escaped into our waterways and become invasive in some places. The Freshwater Lobster, though a recent introduction to the country, is already breeding successfully in ponds and needs careful monitoring, as it may well become an invasive if allowed to escape and establish itself.

The Red-eared Terrapin (Trachymis Scripta elegans) or the Red-eared Turtle, known widely in the pet-trade as the Red-eared Slider, was brought to Sri Lanka in considerable numbers in the early 1980s during the boon in aquarium fish keeping. They were often brought from Singapore and were all small, colourful specimen that could be accommodated in a tank with fish. It breeds throughout the year in Sri Lanka and small numbers have been seen and caught from several wetlands near Colombo during the past four years. It is the most widely traded reptile in the world, both as a pet and a food item in spite of the known adverse impacts. It is already an invasive in some countries, and is included in the list of the 100 most dangerous invasive species of plants and animals, prepared by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) for 2001. It is the only tortoise and one of the two reptiles that are in this list.

A native of the Missisipi Valley in the USA from northern Illinois and Indiana to the northern Gulf of Mexico, West to Texas and eastern Albama (Stuart G. Poss and Windsor Aguirre, Species Summery for T. Scripta elegans, Gulf of Mexico Programme) and is said to prefer quiet waters with a muddy bottom and abundant vegetation, but are also rarely found in moving water.

It has been introduced to 24 non-native areas of the USA itself such as Arizona, California, Florida, Kenturkey, Michigen, New Jersy, Pennsylvenia and Hawaii (US Geological Survey database). Other countries with non native populations of Red-eared Sliders number more than twenty and include Canada, UK, France, Italy, Israel, Bahrain, South Africa, Marianna Islands, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan (data compiled from several sources). They are commercially reared in several countries in Asia such as Malaysia and Philippines.

When kept in tanks or ponds, the Red-eared Sliders usually stay close to the surface, the nostrils kept out of water and swimming slowly around. They have the habit of coming out of water to sit motionless on a log or a rock jutting out, and sliding back quietly and quickly to the water if disturbed, but even without causing ripples on the surface. This ability had earned it the popular name slider. They become tame quickly and soon start to feed from the hand. In their native habitats, they feed on fish, frogs and worms (USGS database). Those in captivity readily takes small fish or pieces, small pieces of flesh. Though mainly carnivorous, large individuals could be made to eat prepared food including boiled rice and bread. It is mainly nocturnal in habits and feeds most actively at night, devouring any small fishes that it can catch. These losses are often detected by owners after some time when several other fish go missing. They are aggressive and voracious with big appetites that makes it dangerous for smaller creatures.

The Red-eared Slider grows to about 25-30 cm (10-12 inches) along the carapace and has a long neck, well-developed legs and a short tail. The carapace (upper shell) and plastadon (lower shell) are both flat and oval-shaped; feet are webbed and have long sharp, nails. The carapace is bright mud green or yellowish green with yellow stripes. The yellow plastadon has two concentric dark circles on each scute. The head, neck, limbs and tail are all streaked with green and yellow. A bright red stripe extends from behind the eye, along the neck to the body. This stripe goes over the ears giving it the popular name red-eared. The young are more colourful and bright and are therefore much in demand as pets. Adult males are darker and get darker with age. Adult females are paler than the young.

It only breeds during the summer between April to June in its native habitats. In contrast, they breed throughout the year in Sri Lanka. Females come out at night and dig a hole into the soft soil surrounding a pond to lay eggs and thereafter covers it carefully. The eggs are white and soft-shelled and may number between 5 to 20, depending on the size of the female. The eggs take 75-80 days to hatch. Since laying eggs occur at night, it goes unnoticed and gets to be known often when young are seen. This increases the possibility for the young to escape as owners may not see any reason to take any precautions. The newly hatched young have a carapace about 2.5+0.3 cm (1.0-1.2 inches) or about the size of a two rupee coin. The young are more active than adults.

It is this year-round breeding and carnivorous habits, together with the ability to successfully adapt to different environments that raised our concerns. The first reports of escapees that came to notice were from the Nedimala Marshes South of Dehiwala and the adjoining Bellanwila-Attidiya sanctuary, and from the marshes around Kolonnawa and Wellampitiya in 1996. At the time, it was not possible to ascertain whether these were escapees or whether there was any breeding in these places. Many people keep the Red-eared Sliders in ponds without taking precautions to prevent escapes. Many aquatic animals tend to be accidentally released due to flooding of ponds during heavy rains. However, there is still no evidence of people throwing away any unwanted pet terrapins, probably because there is still ample opportunity to sell them.

Evidence available in other countries, including USA itself, points to possible problems if it establishes populations in our waterways. According to the Gulf a Mexico Programme Red-eared sliders may compete with native turtles for food and nesting areas and be detrimental to aquatic vegetation. Another possible harm is the predation of fishes and other aquatic animals.

In the USA, concern has been expressed about it hybridizing with the Yellow-bellied Sliders (Trachymis scripta scripta), subspecies. However, there is no possibility of hybridizing with any of our native tortoises. Another danger is their ability to act as carriers of Salmonella bacteria. These could affect human beings who handle the tortoises or drink water in which they have been living. It has been found out that these bacteria are carried only by the young Red-eared sliders. Therefore, the US government in 1975, banned the sale of specimens less than 10 cm (4 inches) in length. At the time it had been found that this turtle is causing an estimated 300,000 cases of Salmanollosis every year. This ban (see US 21 CFR 1240.62) does not extend to the export of individuals below this length. About 8 million hatchlings, most of them laden with Salmonella bacteria are being exported to 60 nations around the world, every year from USA (The Terrible Turtle Trade by Ted Williams Audbourn, Volume 101, issue 02, March 1999). Ironically, it is these small individuals that are in great demand as pets, due to the bright colours. Therefore, what is bad for US citizens and banned is sent abroad without any restrictions or consideration. The European Union banned the import of Red-eared sliders in December 1997, because they are a threat to native animals and plants (EU Regulations 338/97) This ban applies to 16 member nations of EU. South Africa has banned both the import and keeping of them due to its invasive tendencies and problems of Salmanollosis.

The Red-eared Sliders are still coming in to Sri Lanka. Under the Fauna and Flora Ordinance, an import of any animal (except domestics) can be done only under a permit (Section 37). A ban can be implicitly enforced by not issuing permits. An explicit ban can be imposed by a gazette regulation issued under Section 30 of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act. There are still no regulations to ban import of this turtle and imports are still possible under a permit. It is reliably learnt that the Department of Wildlife Conservation has not issued any permits to import Red-eared Sliders since December 1996. It is not clear how there could be imports at present since they are all illegal. The Red-eared Slider has not yet become an invasive and all measures have to be taken to prevent it becoming established in Sri Lanka.
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Read More
http://www.island.lk/2001/08/09/featur03.html

By Jagath Gunawardana
« Last Edit: December 01, 2010, 08:02:26 am by indunil » Report Spam   Logged

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