Damage by the red-eared slider
The red-eared slider is listed by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) as one of 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species, alongside the common myna, red fox and the cane toad.
It is considered an environmental pest outside its natural range because it competes with native turtles for food, nesting areas and basking sites. In England, introduced sliders damage the nests of water birds when using them as basking sites. Water bird eggs and hatchlings are often destroyed and small live hatchlings eaten.
Some countries have placed bans on the importation of this species because of concern about the negative effects of released pet sliders on native aquatic turtles. Many sliders are obtained as pets when they are very small and look attractive. However, these sliders grow rapidly into large, biting adults, resulting in many being dumped or released into the wild.
Released pet sliders carry diseases and parasites that may spread in the environment and have a negative impact on native turtles. Recent evidence suggests that this has occurred in Australia, with a malaria-like blood parasite transmitted to two species of native turtles in the Lane Cove River, Sydney.
Potential to be a pest in Australia
The red-eared slider is rated as highly likely to establish further populations in Australia and become a pest.
A scientific risk assessment conducted by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in Western Australia and endorsed by the national Invasive Plants and Animals Committee indicates that the red-eared slider poses an extreme establishment risk (the highest of four establishment risk ranks) to Australia. Part of the assessment showed that the climates of the slider’s overseas range and Australia are very similar.
Red-eared sliders could compete aggressively with native turtles for food and favoured basking sites. They could also affect the breeding success of native turtles by competing for nesting sites and eating hatchlings. In addition, pet sliders carry diseases that can infect native turtles.
Therefore, it is important that the red-eared slider does not establish further populations in the wild in Australia as many native turtles, small fish and frogs are potentially at risk.
Sliders in the wild
In Australia, it is illegal for members of the public to import, keep, trade or release red-eared sliders. However, illegal keeping and the subsequent irresponsible release of unwanted animals, as well as the species’ robustness, adaptability and longevity, have led to the establishment in the wild of isolated populations in various parts of Australia.
Breeding populations have established in Queensland in the Mango Hill and Burpengary areas of the Moreton Bay Regional Council. These populations are the focus of ongoing control and removal operations.
In New South Wales, red-eared sliders have been found in waterways around Sydney, including the Georges River catchment and in Yeramba Lagoon. A single animal was also found at Wolli Creek Reserve. Survey work found evidence of breeding and individuals of various ages in the Georges River catchment as well as egg-bearing females in other catchments. Sliders have also been reported in the Hawkesbury–Nepean and several other rivers in New South Wales, as well as in dams near the Murrumbidgee River, Australian Capital Territory.
In Victoria, red-eared sliders have been found in Melbourne at Blackburn Lake Sanctuary, Ruffey Lake Park, and at Elsternwick Park. Three other sites are also under investigation for the presence of sliders.
Single animals have been found in Tomato Lake and Hyde Park, Perth, Western Australia.
In some jurisdictions surveillance activities and awareness-raising campaigns are underway.
While it is illegal to keep any non-native turtle (including sliders) in Australia as pets, illegally-held sliders have been seized in all Australian jurisdictions except the Northern Territory. In Tasmania it is illegal to keep any turtles or tortoises as pets, even Australian native species, and any seen in the wild there will be escaped or released animals.
To help prevent the red-eared slider from becoming more widespread in the wild and becoming a pest in Australia, it is important to report all sightings to the nearest relevant government department or wildlife authority so that appropriate action can be taken.
Pet sliders should be surrendered to the authorities or a responsible organisation, not released into the wild.
Declared pest category
The Western Australian Organism List (WAOL) contains information on the area(s) in which this pest is declared and the control and keeping categories to which it has been assigned in Western Australia (WA). Use the links on this page to reach red–eared slider in WAOL.