Fresh sightings of introduced red-eared slider turtles in Lake Taupō have prompted a reminder for people not to let these popular pets escape or dump them in waterways.
“People really need to take responsibility for looking after their pets properly as we don’t want these turtles becoming widespread in the wild in New Zealand. They are considered one of the world’s top 100 pests,” said regional council biosecurity officer Brett Bailey.
Last August, one of the turtles was captured at Lake Taupō after being spotted at Rainbow Point.
Another turtle was picked up by a tourist on the northern foreshore near Taupō township before Christmas and handed into authorities.
This month there have been a further two sightings south of Taupo township, which are being followed up by Department of Conservation and council staff
Mr Bailey said it was again suspected that the sightings were of a pet or pets that had escaped or been deliberately released to the wild when the owner no longer wanted them. Attempts will be made to track down and remove the turtles that have been seen.
“If people do not want their pet, they should first attempt to re-home it themselves, and if this is unsuccessful call the SPCA. They can also contact the council’s biosecurity team on 0800 800 401 for advice.”
Mr Bailey said the turtles are a danger to New Zealand waterways and the council is in the process of putting rules in place that would make releasing turtles into the wild an offence
“They are omnivorous and may eat native species such as eels and native fish, and compete for food with introduced trout.”
The council, Ngati Tūwharetoa and the Department of Conservation are particularly concerned about the potential for the turtles to become established in Lake Taupō, an important tourist destination and for the turtles to damage fish stocks and the lake’s native biodiversity values.
“It’s thought that New Zealand is generally too cold for the turtles, which breed on land, to get established on any scale by breeding in the wild. But Lake Taupō has geothermal heat venting at various sites around the lake shore which could potentially create pockets where successful breeding could occur”.