Red-eared Slider Turtle

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    Context

    • The presence of the red-eared slider turtle, an invasive species, in the public water bodies of Kerala has become a cause for concern.

    About

    • The major concern is as it not only destroys the aqua ecosystem (extinction of native species) but also carries a bacteria which is harmful to the human body. Hence, it is known to be a major invasive alien species.
    • India is home to 29 freshwater turtles and tortoise species of the 356 turtle species recognised worldwide and around 80 per cent of them are threatened.
    • In India, keeping indigenous turtles as pets is prohibited under the wildlife protection act. But the foreign breeds are not restricted and are kept as pets in many families across India.
    • These small and easy-to-maintain species are a hit in the pets market. The species breeds faster compared to other local turtle varieties. 
    • In India, it is widely found in urban wetlands, such as — Sukhna lake in Chandigarh, temple ponds of Guwahati, lakes of Bengaluru, Sanjay Gandhi national park in Mumbai, Yamuna river in Delhi — among other water bodies

    Red-eared Slider Turtle

    • About:
      • The red-eared slider is a freshwater turtle with a distinctive red strip behind each ear.
      • The red-eared slider are native to south-eastern USA and Mexico, but have found their way across the globe including India through trade of exotic animals,
    • Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans

    • Distinctive features:
      • They have a broad red or orange stripe behind each eye with narrow yellow stripes marking the rest of the black body, neck, legs and tail.
      • Their shell is dome-shaped, likened to the shape of a helmet.
    • Threat to ecosystem: The red-eared slider turtles are considered a major threat to native turtle specials, as they mature fast, grow larger, and produce more offspring, and are very aggressive. They can out-compete native turtles for food, nestling, and basking sites.
      • Studies show that they can also transfer diseases and parasites to native reptile species.
      • The Red-Eared Slider Turtle is considered to be one of the world’s worst invasive species.
    • Conservation: It is not mentioned in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
      • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) releases the world’s 100 most invasive species, and the Red-Eared Slider Turtle is included in this list

    Invasive Plant Species: Water Hyacinth

    • The native plant species of South America was brought to India during the British era. Initially introduced in Kolkata, the plant is now present across the water bodies in the country, choking them and affecting the local biodiversity.

    What can be done to control the invasion?

    • These turtles should be restrained, captivated and sent to local zoos.
    • Measures needed to prevent more red-eared slider turtles from entering water bodies and take mitigation steps by government officials and environmentalists to address the issue.
    • Manual intervention to procure and rehabilitate these turtles from urban wetlands. A campaign to declare or give up turtles should be held to take these turtles in custody

    Invasive Alien Species (IAS)

    • An alien species is a species introduced outside its natural past or present distribution; if this species becomes problematic, it is termed an invasive alien species (IAS). 
    • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines IAS as “an alien species whose introduction and spread threaten ecosystems, habitats, or species with socio-cultural, economic and environmental harm and harm to human health”.
    • IAS are such a problem that Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 and one clause of UN Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land specifically address the issue.

    Source: DTE