Native Indian turtles face U.S. slider threat across Northeast


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Red-eared slider

Mains level: Paper 3- Native Indian turtles face threat from red-eared slider

About red-eared slider

  • The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) derives its name from red stripes around the part where its ears would be and from its ability to slide quickly off any surface into the water.
  • Native to the U.S. and northern Mexico, this turtle is an extremely popular pet due to its small size, easy maintenance, and relatively low cost.

Reports about threat

  • Between August 2018 and June 2019, a team of herpetologists from NGO Help Earth published the finding in ‘Reptiles & Amphibians’, journal of the U.S.-based International Reptile Conservation Foundation in August 2020.
  • But the alarm was raised experts from Mizoram University’s Department of Zoology published another report in the same journal in April this year.

How is it a threat?

  • They grow fast and virtually leaves nothing for the native species to eat.
  •  People who keep it as pets become sensitive about turtle conservation but endanger the local ecosystem, probably unknowingly, by releasing them in natural water bodies after they outgrow an aquarium, tank or pool at home.
  • Much like the Burmese python that went to the U.S. as a pet to damage the South Florida Everglades ecosystem, the red-eared slider has already affected States such as Karnataka and Gujarat, where it has been found in 33 natural water bodies.
  • Preventing this invasive species from overtaking the Brahmaputra and other river ecosystems in the Northeast is crucial because the Northeast is home to more than 72% of the turtle and tortoise species in the country, all of them very rare.

Way forward

  • Although the red-eared slider is traded legally, the time has come for the government to come up with regulations against keeping invasive as pets.
  • There is a need to create awareness among pet traders for maintaining a database of red-eared slider buyers.
  • They can be contacted to hand over the turtles to the repository insulated from any wetland or natural water body.

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