This freshwater turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) originates from the Mississippi Valley region of the United States and, due to its wide popularity as an aquarium and water garden pet, has established itself in native habitats in many regions around the world. Red-eared sliders are very hardy and active and the juveniles grow very quickly. They generally feed off aquatic plants as well as a variety of insects, shellfish, worms and small fish. They prefer lakes, water courses and wetlands that provide good basking areas such as rocks, branches and bird nests.
Once established, red-eared sliders are known to compete for food with native aquatic turtles. One important environmental concern is that, when they bask on bird nests, they press the nest into the water, thereby killing the eggs. They are also known to prey on young birds.
The main pathway of spread of the red-eared slider is through the pet/aquarium trade. They have been commercially bred on farms in the United States since the 1970s and are considered today to be the most popular turtle, world wide, to be maintained in captivity.
Another key method of dispersal is release of adult turtles by their owners in local waterways. Although certain physical management methods can be used to control their spread, such as floating traps, these methods can also have an impact on other species found in the same habitat.
While many countries have banned their importation as a preventative measure, prevention of accidental release remains an effective method of controlling their spread. This can be achieved by not disposing of unwanted turtles into native waterways, or by returning or donating unwanted turtles to a pet store, school, another hobbyist or local organization that can provide a home or find a new owner.
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