Red-eared Slider Turtles in Australia and New Zealand STATUS IMPACTS MANAGEMENT Brisbane, Queensland 3-7 April, 2006 Credits and acknowledgements Edited by M. Scott O’Keeffe Biosecurity Queensland Thanks to Mandy Soymonoff Jennifer Camilleri Susan Bryce Shannon Cooper Dorothy Lim For assistance in coordinating the workshop Table of Contents Introduction................................................................................................................................................. 3 Red-eared Slider Turtles ...................................................................................................................... 3 The Animal Trade .................................................................................................................................. 3 REST in Australia and New Zealand ................................................................................................ 3 REST in Queensland ............................................................................................................................. 4 The REST Workshop ................................................................................................................................. 4 The REST Workshop had three objectives: ...................................................................................... 5 1. Promote a national perspective on REST management. ................................................ 5 2. Transfer knowledge ................................................................................................................ 5 3. Identify future requirements for REST management in Queensland and other states..................................................................................................................................................... 5 Participants. ............................................................................................................................................ 5 Programme Overview............................................................................................................................ 6 Day 1 - Is Eradication possible? ...................................................................................................... 6 Day 2 - Applying Knowledge. How can we manage REST? ...................................................... 6 Day 3, 4 and 5 - Field Sessions........................................................................................................ 8 REST: What is the Hazard? ............................................................................................................. 9 What is it We are Trying To Protect? ............................................................................................ 9 Status of Slider Turtles In New Zealand .................................................................................... 10 Status of Red-eared Slider Turtles in New South Wales......................................................... 10 Dynamics of the red-eared Slider trade...................................................................................... 11 The Australian perspective.............................................................................................................. 11 Federal Government support for control in New South Wales........................................................ 12 What can we conclude about sliders in NSW?.......................................................................... 13 Status of Slider Turtles in the ACT ............................................................................................. 14 Red-eared Slider Turtles in Victoria ............................................................................................ 16 Status of Slider Turtles in West Australia ................................................................................. 17 Finding Sliders.................................................................................................................................. 18 Working with the Public................................................................................................................. 19 Where Are All These Sliders Coming From?.............................................................................. 19 Disease Risks from Exotic Reptiles .............................................................................................. 20 Summary and Recommendations ......................................................................................................... 22 A National REST Strategy................................................................................................................. 22 Questions Need Answers To Advance REST Management ........................................................ 23 Managing the captive trade ............................................................................................................... 25 An Abridged REST Bibliography.......................................................................................................... 33 Introduction Red-eared Slider Turtles Pond sliders (Trachemys scripta) are freshwater turtles. This is a variable species consisting of many subspecies that occupy a broad natural range in the United States and Central America. The Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is one subspecies that occurs naturally in the lower Mississippi drainage system in the southern United States. The international community of professional pest managers and ecologists recognises the exotic red-eared slider turtle (REST) as a serious threat. When introduced to areas outside its natural range the species may cause serious loss of aquatic biodiversity. The World Conservation Union’s Invasive Species Specialist Group lists REST among the world’s 100 worst invasive species. The Animal Trade REST are the most widely kept pet animal in the world. At least 10 million are exported annually from the USA, to supply the demand for pets, specimens for reptile collectors, food and traditional medicines. REST exported from the USA were originally taken from wild populations. However, most of the animals now exported from the USA are raised on a small number of very large turtle ‘ranches’. Sliders can readily be purchased by mail order and over the internet, and are often shipped “bulk” as hatchlings. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and Australian Customs Service report that travellers are regularly intercepted attempting to smuggle sliders into Australia. Sliders are also regularly intercepted in post and cargo arriving in Australia. REST in Australia and New Zealand Small numbers of apparently free-living REST have been found in NSW, Victoria, West Australia, ACT and Queensland. In New Zealand, REST can legally be sold in pet shops. No breeding populations have been found in New Zealand, but free-living animals have often been found. The New Zealand Department of Conservation have recommended that REST be listed as an unwanted organism. Despite concerns that REST are potentially a threat to biodiversity in Australia and New Zealand, the species has not been thoroughly investigated as a pest, nor has its status been well documented. There is no coordinated effort to prevent the spread of REST in the region. The discovery in 2004 of free-ranging slider turtles in the Pine Rivers Shire, Queensland, triggered a response from Federal, State and Local Government agencies with responsibilities for managing vertebrate pests. Early investigation led to the discovery of a cluster of small water bodies supporting high densities of REST. Breeding at these locations had apparently occurred for at least eight years. A decision to attempt eradication was made. The Queensland eradication program has had some success, attracting the interest of pest managers in the region who are interested to know whether an effective, affordable regional control program for the species is possible. REST in Queensland In Queensland, Red-eared slider turtles are listed as a Class 1 pest under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002. The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water leads the REST response as part of its agreed pest management responsibilities under a Memorandum of Understanding with Queensland Local Governments. The Queensland REST program has as its aim the eradication of REST from the State. REST have been cleared from five of the six affected dams, in the Pine Rivers Shire and eradication is proceeding at the sixth location. Sightings and hand-ins of REST have triggered searches for wild populations of REST in the Bundaberg, Burpengary and Gold Coast areas. Illegally kept pet sliders released to the wild are thought to be the source of Queensland’s only known breeding population of REST at Mango Hill, in the Pine Figure 1. A female REST taken Shire, just north of Brisbane. A resident of Petrie, during the Qld eradication program several kilometres away, was successfully prosecuted for keeping, breeding and distributing REST. Pet turtles have also been handed in at Brisbane and the Gold Coast, some under the recent federal reptile amnesty. The REST Workshop To achieve the aim of eradication, a regional approach to REST management is desirable. Cooperation between administrative divisions is important in reducing the trade in REST since REST are still widely available and traded in Australia in contravention of state and federal laws. The initial success of the eradication project for red-eared slider turtles (REST) in Queensland has attracted attention from pest management authorities outside Queensland. Pest managers in the region have said that REST management would benefit from: Discussions on status, ecology and management Improved cooperation amongst pest managers in the region Formal and informal knowledge sharing Development of practical management skills Targeted research The workshop run by the Queensland eradication group was designed to incorporate these suggestions. The event was intended to provide attendees with the skills and support to run local REST management projects. ‘Theoretical’ and ‘practical’ components of the workshop were to be soundly linked. Thus, scientists and operational pest managers were both asked to attend, and to participate in all sessions. The REST Workshop had three objectives: 1. Promote a national perspective on REST management. Control and eradication at a state level will be enhanced by reducing risk of reinfestation from interstate. Coordinated management will be more efficient as well as more effective. 2. Transfer knowledge • Provide state agencies and pest managers with urgently required information and skills. • Share the knowledge and experience of pest managers from other States • The literature on REST management is limited. Discussion between pest managers are needed to efficiently disseminate information, develop new control and monitoring methods and formulate effective management strategies. 3. Identify future requirements for REST management in Queensland and other states. Participants. We invited pest managers from Australian and New Zealand Federal, State and Local agencies. We also invited scientists specialising in chelonian research and social aspects of pest animal management. The workshop was not intended to provide general information for anyone and everyone. The workshop was intended to provide pest managers with practical information and concrete skills. We also hoped to unify pest management planning and operational functions, so participants were encouraged to participate in all segments of the programme. There was a limit of fifty participants, and some people were turned away. Programme Overview. The programme was structured to facilitate discussion on REST ecology, impacts and practical management. A successful eradication programme provided both a backdrop and a basis for discussion on theory and practice. The full programme included field trips to eradication sites, a seminar program, three days of field work and training. Day 1 - Is Eradication possible? Tour of eradication sites at Sandgate, Brighton, Mango Hill and Caboolture. The tour of eradication sites provided an operational overview of Queensland’s management program. Participants were able to see treatment sites first-hand and view: • Dam draining, filling and compaction • Trapping and netting • Containment fencing and barriers Day 2 - Applying Knowledge. How can we manage REST? Seminar, presentations and discussions on ecology and management of REST. REST: What is the Hazard? Summary of Qld Eradication Program Scott O’Keeffe REST Eradication Project Manager, Qld Dept of Natural Resources, Mines & Water. What is it We are Trying To Protect? Overview of the Status of Australian Freshwater Turtles John Cann, Renowned expert on Australian turtles and author of “Australian Freshwater Turtles” Status of REST Management – Reports From States and NZ Delegates from Australian States Associate Professor Shelley Burgin Assoc. Dean Research, College of Health and Science, University of Western Sydney Patrick Whaley Programme Manager Biodiversity, NZ Dept of Conservation Keith Larner Sr Investigator, Exotic Wildlife, Victorian Dept of Sustainability and Environment What do We Know About REST, and What Have We Discovered in the Eradication Program? Col Limpus, Senior Principal Conservation Officer, Marine Sciences, Qld Environmental Protection Authority Finding Sliders. Sources or Information, Surveying, Capture and Removal Scott O’Keeffe REST Eradication Project Manager, Qld Dept of Natural Resources, Mines & Water. Working with the Public. Pest Managers, Public Perceptions and Animal Pests Assoc Professor Darryl Jones Centre for Innovative Conservation Strategies, Griffith University. Where do the Sliders Originate? Sliders and The Animal Trade Marnie Rowe Assistant Director, International Wildlife Trade Section, Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra. Disease Risks from Exotic Reptiles What Do We Know? What Are the Risks? Neil Charles Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service Summary Led by Steve McKenzie Manager Land & Vegetation Services, Qld Dept of Natural Resources, Mines & Water. How Should We Be Working Together to Manage REST? Led by Jim Thompson Manager, Pest Management Strategy, Land Protection, Qld Department of Natural Resources, Mines & Water Day 3, 4 and 5 - Field Sessions Operational control and monitoring: Demonstrate use of sniffer dog to find turtles, nests and eggs, use of seine nets, basking, opera and cathedral traps. Two groups at: • Halpine Dam, Mango Hill, Pine Rivers Shire • Brisbane Entertainment Centre Lake, Boondall Wetlands, Brisbane Presenters and Presentations - 4 April 2006 REST: What is the Hazard? Summary of Qld Eradication Program Scott O’Keeffe REST Eradication Project Manager, Qld Dept of Natural Resources, Mines & Water. Red-eared Slider Turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) are native in the south-eastern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America. However they are widely traded around the world, and have become established in at least 20 countries on all continents. Although a considerable amount is known about the species, it is little studied as a pest. There is evidence that when REST become established, they have an adverse impact on indigenous turtles. In 2004, a ‘cluster’ of breeding populations was found in Mango Hill, about 30 km north of Brisbane, Queensland. An investigation of the incursion was undertaken by an interagency task force. The incursion proved to be limited in extent, and relatively isolated by roads and new urban development. A decision was therefore made to attempt eradication of the species. The eradication program used standard netting and trapping techniques for capture, but also developed novel approaches that combined draining dams, isolation barriers and a detection canine to locate breeding sites. The program appears to have been successful at Mango Hill, although monitoring will be required to demonstrate that REST have been permanently eradicated. REST continue to appear in other locations. These animals may be escapees from an illegal breeding facility, or abandoned pets. The eradication team investigates each new sighting or specimen, the objective being to remove free-ranging animals from the wild, and determine whether additional breeding sites require treatment. Please refer to O'Keeffe's Presentation I What is it We are Trying To Protect? Overview of the Status of Australian Freshwater Turtles John Cann, Renowned expert on Australian turtles & author of “Australian Freshwater Turtles” John presented an overview of the variety of native turtles in Australia, their distribution, status and apparent decline in recent times due to a variety of causes. John showed that while native turtles are still common in many places, a lack of appreciation for these animals as interesting and cherished native fauna contributes to apathy when conservation efforts are needed to secure their persistence. John made a passionate appeal to scientists and decision-makers, calling on them to prevent further loss of native turtles and their habitats. John praised efforts to eradicate the Red-eared Slider Turtle, as they are potentially a serious threat to native species, but suggested that monitoring and controlling the illegal reptile trade is as much a part of an effective program as removing REST from the wild. John believes there are still many REST coming into the country, and circulating amongst reptile collectors. John has provided invaluable advice to the Queensland REST eradication team, and a number of excellent photographs of native turtles that appear in the REST identification guides being distributed to agencies participating in surveys and eradication. Status of Slider Turtles In New Zealand Patrick Whaley Programme Manager Biodiversity, NZ Dept of Conservation REST have been legally available in New Zealand through the pet trade for forty years. Recognition worldwide, and regionally of the potential of this species to seriously affect indigenous biota has prompted the Department of Conservation (DOC) to undertake a provisional risk assessment of REST. The risk assessment found that: 1. some areas on the North Island provide microclimates suitable for wild breeding and 2. REST are a potential threat to some endemic vertebrates, invertebrates and aquatic vegetation. DOC and Biosecurity NZ are looking at future management options that could potentially include Unwanted Organism determination under the Biosecurity Act 1993. The declaration does not "require" any management actions other than the prohibition provided for in section 52 and 53 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 which make it illegal to communicate, release, sell exhibit/display and breed. The requirements for sightings to be reported, monitoring, an emergency response, and pest management planning for the species can be either picked up by Regional Councils throughout NZ or as part of a National Pest Management Strategy. Click here to go to Whaley's presentation Status of Red-eared Slider Turtles in New South Wales Associate Professor Shelley Burgin Assoc. Dean Research, College of Health and Science, University of Western Sydney Red-eared Sliders Trachemys scripta elegans have become the ubiquitous ‘pet terrapin’. They are endemic to much of eastern United States of America and northern Mexico, and have been traded from the ‘turtle farms’ of Louisiana, to the four corners of the world. In many countries, escaped and released animals have formed the basis of feral populations, and in some areas they appear to have had a major impact on the biodiversity of local waterways. One breeding population has been identified in New South Wales. The current evidence for feral red-eared sliders populations in New South Wales, the response of government to this potential pest, and threats to aquatic biodiversity are reviewed. Dynamics of the red-eared Slider trade Red-eared sliders Trachemys scripta elegans are endemic to much of eastern United States of America (USA) and northern Mexico. Since the initiation of a pet trade in the 1930s, based on wild-harvested animals and later sourced from ‘turtle farms’, there has been a sustained growth in the industry. More recently, Louisiana farmers have been the source of most hatchlings for the pet market worldwide and are responsible for 85 - 95% of the market. Turtles are now the largest group of reptile species exported from the USA. By 2002 this represented an export of approximately 10 million red-eared slider hatchlings annually for the pet and food trade industries. Historically, most hatchling turtles were distributed to the European community (particularly the former Soviet Union) and Eastern Asia. In 1991, it is estimated that the trade to Europe and the Far East was three to four million hatchlings annually, mainly from the USA. In 1998, the European Economic Community banned imports due to ecological concerns. However, the supply has continued to increase in the Asian market although typically these hatchlings are reared as livestock for eventual slaughter for human consumption, rather than being sold for the pet trade. While rearing of imported stock apparently represents a substantial portion of the total trade volume in Asia, it has also been assumed that there is ‘mass farming’ in mainland China. In addition to this trade, red- eared sliders have also been raised and traded elsewhere in Asia, and thus provides an additional source, albeit illegal, for continued imports into Australia. The slider invasion Red-eared sliders have declined within their natural range due to pressure from unsustainable farming. Although limited data are available on the status, distribution and ecological impact of introduced populations, due to their flexible environmental requirements, feral populations have become established outside of their natural range within the USA, and in a wide range of habitats, in various other countries (eg. France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Israel, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Australia Guam, Singapore, Southern Florida, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand). While sites that encompass these populations are listed on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature(IUCN) invasive species data base, the list includes additional feral populations from elsewhere in the world (South East and Far East Asia, Europe [Poland, France, England, Cyprus]), the Caribbean, Israel, Bahrain, Mariana Islands, Guam and South Africa (ISSG 2005). These populations can vary between relatively small populations (eg. Sydney) and those that are ‘almost universally’ present in a region (Peninsular Malaysia). As a result of the establishment of exotic populations across so much of the world, red-eared sliders are listed on the Invasive Species Specialist Group (IUCN) as 92 on the list of 100 ‘worst invasive species’. The Australian perspective Apart from their attractive appearance and distinctive facial markings, a major reason for their popularity as pets is their robustness. In the wild they are able to cope with a wide range of environmental conditions across the temperate regions of the world. There establishment in countries that include South Africa, the Mediterranean and much of East Asia that have similar climatic conditions to Australia indicate that they have the potential to establish here. As has occurred elsewhere in the world, sliders have been imported into Australia for the pet trade, and Asian food markets in Sydney’s China Town. As with other countries, pet turtles have escaped within Australia, accidentally and deliberately, and these animals have formed the nucleus of populations, at least in New South Wales and Queensland. Federal Government support for control in New South Wales Australia has among the strictest environmental protection laws in the world (http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/too.html). It is an offence to illegally possess imported exotic reptiles under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. In May 2004, a moratorium on exotic reptiles (including red-eared sliders) was declared by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. This included an eight week National Exotic Reptile Amnesty with exemption from prosecution during this period for those who forfeited animals being retained illegally. This project was conducted jointly with the Federal Government and all States and Territories. Now that the amnesty has lapsed, the keeping of such animals may incur Federal penalties of up to five years in prison and/or fine of up to $110,000. These penalties are aimed at reducing the number of illegal exotic reptiles privately owned in Australia. This law provides the framework for State legislation. Despite the Federal Government’s recognition of the potential for red-eared sliders to become an environmental pest, their actual risk has not been formally assessed by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Status of red-eared sliders in New South Wales Amateur herpetologists have discussed sightings of red-eared sliders in New South Wales for more than 20 years, and observations have been reproduced in a manuscript by Anthony Stimson and Richard Wells titled A note on the red eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, ‘feral’ in the Sydney area which was written for the Hawkesbury Herpetology Society Inc. They report that in 1985 a gravid female was found on the Everglades Golf Course (Woy Woy, Central Coast, NSW). It was collected and subsequently laid eggs at the nearby Australian Reptile Park. They also wrote that ‘many specimens’ had been observed on the Golf Course spanning a range of size classes. This indicates that the collected female was part of a larger breeding population. Wells and Wellington also claimed that the founding individuals were animals released by Eric Worrell (Australian Reptile Park) in the late 1950s. They also wrote that they had been observed in Centennial Park, Bicentennial Park, Lane Cove River, Mirrambeena Lakes, Manly Dam, Howes Creek, Wingello Creek and Nurrangingee Reserve Ponds, with an unconfirmed sighting in Liverpool Weir. In his field guide of the Sydney Region, Griffiths (1997) provided information on red-eared sliders that supports the suggestion that they are present at sites including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hacking River and Royal National Park. There have also been red-eared sliders found in backyards. In Sydney sites, where the actual location where red-eared sliders were observed could be confirmed, were sampled in the late 1990s. They were only captured at one site. However, nets were generally only set for a few days and, therefore lack of capture does not confirm their absence from the site. More recently, work by the Queensland Dept of Natural Resources and Water has been shown that netting regimes need to cover at least five days, with high trap density to ensure reliable sampling. My trapping effort was, therefore, considered marginal. The possible exception to this conclusion is the Lane Cove River where a year-long survey of turtles was undertaken as part of student project. No sliders were collected. In an equivalent study in the Upper Parramatta Catchment, Ross (2000) collected a single large individual. However, they have not been captured in turtle targeted surveys in impoundments elsewhere in North Western Sydney. Red-eared sliders were found at Yeramba Lagoon (South Sydney), and sampling was extended at that site until the rapidly declining water levels during summer precluded further sampling. The presence of two species of feral turtle in Yeramba Lagoon, was immediately made known to the appropriate New South Wales government authorities. However, the implications of the find were not recognised, despite providing evidence that five of the six females captured had developing ovarian follicles (the other was immature) and there was evidence that they were laying eggs in the area. The data were ignored by government, and dismissed by scientific reviewers, as being inconsequential because of the low numbers captured. No follow up study has been commissioned. The New South Wales Government response to the on-going sightings, and evidence of possibly two breeding populations, is best described as having a ‘watching brief’. The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries has a link to the Queensland Natural Resources, Mines and Water Pest Animals portal (http://www.ricecrc.org/reader/pe-vp) but no other material is provided for public education/information through their web site. Despite this lack of information word has spread and some community groups are aware of the potential problem. For example, in an article on the by-catch from a weed harvester in Glenbrook Lagoon (Western Sydney), it was commented that no red-eared sliders were found (www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/download.cfm?f=B8FDE741-AE40-9F6C-B6D9A0A566D6C34D0). What can we conclude about sliders in NSW? The current range of red-eared sliders indicates that these turtles are capable of surviving within New South Wales. They are able to inhabit a wide range of impoundments and rivers, and this may include the saline reach of rivers and salt marshes. They are also able to rapidly expand their range via over-land movement, and they may displace local species. Populations can be formed by a single adult inseminated female, since they can produce fertile offspring for up to five years after insemination. They are also capable of multiple clutching (2/3 clutches/season), although in Queensland they are apparently restricted to a single clutch/year. While this may be the situation in New South Wales, it is unlikely since the population I collected from in Southern Sydney have asynchronous laying with eggs with indications being that they may deposit eggs from spring through summer. Red-eared sliders continue to be held in captivity in New South Wales, and it is relatively simply to source them. Individual animals found in urban gardens indicate that pets continue to escape from captivity. Smuggling is another factor. For example, Australian Customs have interrupted attempts to smuggle hatchlings into Australia. Sliders may invade the rangelands of New South Wales ‘in the near future’, and they are considered a major threat to the integrity of the associated wetland habitats. This view is supported by risk assessment that revealed that the species possess an ‘extreme risk to biodiversity’. Although based on a small number of sites where sliders had been netted, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water observed that where there were large numbers of red-eared sliders, no native turtles or fish were present. This trend has also been noted overseas. In contrast, I found two species of native turtles in the one water body with a breeding population of sliders in Sydney. This finding is not necessarily contradictory to previous observations. In the early phase of invasion, naturally-occurring species may be able to co-occur, but over time the native species may be displaced. Discussion with Scott O’Keeffe of the Qld Dept of Natural Resources and Water clearly indicated that the density of turtles in the Southern Queensland wetlands his team sampled were greater than the wetland where I sampled a breeding population in Southern Sydney. This supports the concept that in 1997 when the sampling, reported in 2006 was carried out, the Southern Sydney population was in the early phase of establishment. There is no doubt that red-eared sliders are established in, at least, in New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland and I believe that it is inevitable that they will become established elsewhere in Australia. In Europe and Asia, their ability to displace native turtles has been recognised. The only valid conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence to date is that the red-eared slider, the ubiquitous childhood pet, has become established in New South Wales, and shows all of the hallmarks of being the reptile equivalent to the carp (Cyprinus carpio) in terms of devastation of wetland biodiversity. It is critical that Australian governments recognise that the opportunity to stop this from occurring is fast slipping from their grip. The cost of immediate removal of emerging populations, no matter what the cost, will be insignificant in comparison to the longer term management of their impacts. Status of Slider Turtles in the ACT A Response to Recent Sightings and Hand-ins of REST Simon Godschalx and Don Fletcher Environment ACT A limited investigation in the ACT, drawing upon information received from the public and a trapping survey suggested that while some translocations or releases of non-indigenous turtles has occurred in the ACT, there are no established wild populations of Red-eared Slider Turtles. The survey was nevertheless considered worthwhile as it assisted conservation agencies to communicate a message of responsible pet ownership to the public, and develop procedures for responding to future incursion of Red-eared Sliders. Some information about the local distribution and abundance of native turtles was collected. A turtle trapping program was run in the ACT in the spring of 2005 in and around a golf course 2.5 km from the Murrumbidgee River. This was a response to the receipt of a live adult Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta) claimed to have been collected near a particular dam on the golf course. A subsequent sighting in the same dam had also been reported by a member of the public, and golf club employees were reported to have seen Red-eared Sliders crossing between dams on a number of occasions. In a separate incident, another Red-eared Slider which was clearly of captive origin had also been handed in from a Canberra suburban back yard. The 2005 response was managed as a small scale practice exercise for future responses to apparent incursions (ie when it is unclear whether the organism is in fact present). As well as the survey, a publicity program was run across the ACT and region, seeking information from the public, and promoting the need for responsible management of exotic animals that are not established in the area. Leaflets were distributed to households, pet shops, veterinarians and fishing shops. Helpful support was obtained from many quarters, especially Scott O’Keeffe of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water, who has experience with the Queensland eradication program. The co-operation of NSW authorities in the region is particularly appreciated, as is the participation of the camping and caravan park owners at Burrunjuck Dam (NSW), who distributed a turtle identification leaflet to fishers and campers. A similar identification poster can be downloaded from www.environment.act.gov.au. The ACT Government response in 2005 was motivated by the wish to take every reasonable precaution to prevent the establishment of Trachemys scripta in the Murray-Darling Basin. Smaller surveys and publicity programs about Red-eared Slider Turtles were also run in 2003 and 2004. In the 2005, a 2 month trapping survey, using basking traps and snorkel traps (cathedral nets) resulted in a total of 168 native turtle captures. One native Chelodina longicollis was caught in the basking traps. There were no other captures using basking traps. 110 C. longicollis were taken in 168 captures using basking traps. One Emydura macquarii was caught. This is an extralimital record, as the capture site is just outside the natural range of E. macquarii, and the location in a farm dam on a ridge-top is considered an unlikely habitat for the species in this region. The presence of this animal is consistent with the hypothesis that (at least one) non-indigenous turtles have been translocated to the site. However no evidence of a slider turtle was detected in either the trapping survey or as a result of the publicity. The few reports from the public all proved to be of juvenile C. longicollis. Unless further information is obtained suggesting the possibility of a local incursion of Red-eared Slider Turtles, no further survey work is intended in the ACT. Probably the most worthwhile aspect of the project was the additional publicity about responsible ownership of pets and proper disposal of aquarium materials. Red-eared Slider Turtles in Victoria Keith Larner Sr Investigator, Exotic Wildlife Victorian Dept of Environment and Sustainability Small numbers of REST are being traded through retail outlets and are being held illegally as pets. There has been an increase in detections of REST, and the DSE is prosecuting the illegal reptile trade. The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has recently reviewed its management activities for vertebrate pests. The review resulted in an increased focus on the illegal trade in reptiles. An improved licensing systems implemented, and officers were trained to conduct investigations and prosecute warrant actions. The unit cooperates with several other Victorian State Authorities, counterparts in other Australian States, the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Crime Commission. Investigations are conducted on intelligence from a variety of sources and warrant actions have proven successful because of the quality of this intelligence, planning and good cooperation between agencies. The number of REST seized, handed in, or ‘found’ is small, but has increased recently. There has been in increase in the detection rate of REST being kept as pets. “Operation Husky” recently discovered that some retail pet shops and aquariums are selling REST. The illegal exotic reptile trade involves a substantial of wildlife license holders, and there is an association with illicit drugs and unlicensed firearms. The Victorian DSE considers REST to be a significant environmental threat carrying a risk of ecological damage and disease transmission. The DSE intends to continue prosecuting the illegal trade in these animals as any reduction in effort will send the wrong message to offenders. Click here to go to Keith Larner's powerpoint presentation Status of Slider Turtles in West Australia A History of Seizures and a Recent Eradication Exercise Win Kirkpatrick and Peter Lambert Department of Agriculture and Food, Conservation and Land Management The recent removal of a Red-eared Slider from a lake in Perth does not represent a first for WA . Other animals have been removed from the wild, and a number of illegally kept pets have been seized. A recent eradication exercise provided information on new capture techniques and the value of thorough examination of captured REST. The recent removal of a Red-eared Slider from a lake in Perth does not represent a first for WA. Over the past nine years, two animals have been captured in wild situations, and 11 have been seized from persons keeping sliders illegally. There has been one successful prosecution. Recently, the public alerted CALM to the presence of a slider at Tomato Lake, in a well used public park in Belmont, Perth. The Department of Agriculture WA, Conservation and Land Management and the City of Belmont took advice from several sources, including the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water. A capture strategy was successfully implemented, and a large female Slider was removed from Tomato Lake. Figure 2 REST at home in urban parkland, Tomato Lake, Perth, The importance of collecting information by WA examination and necropsy of any captured animals should be stressed. Necropsy of the slider taken from Tomato Lake showed that it was a gravid female in its second breeding season. Although it was carrying eggs, none had been laid in the current breeding season. Its condition indicated that it was not a recent release, but that it had been living in a wild state for some time. A virological, parasitological and bacteriological profile did not reveal any unusual condition. The highly urban nature of Tomato Lake emphasises the potential of these places as dumping grounds for turtles and other unwanted pets. It also explains why consideration was given to removal techniques that would minimise adverse public reaction. The recent exercise at Tomato Lake showed the benefits of a network of professional pest managers who exchange information. Best practices were rapidly adopted, and skills were developed. This has given West Australian pest managers the confidence to carry out any necessary follow-up surveys at Tomato Lake and surrounding areas, and respond to new sightings and incursions of Red-eared Slider Turtles. Click here to go to the Kirkpatrick and Lambert presentation What do We Know About REST, and What Have We Discovered in the Eradication Program? Col Limpus, Senior Principal Conservation Officer, Marine Sciences, Qld Environmental Protection Authority Studying any wild breeding populations of REST, and closely examining any individual REST captured is revealing information critical in making decisions about the species eradication in Queensland. In southeast Queensland, by 2006, breeding had been demonstrated in two subcatchments in the Mango Hill area. Habitats occupied match those preferred within the natural range of REST in the USA. In the Mango Hill area, REST occupy still waters (farm dams) with soft bottoms. REST breeding in the Mango Hill area almost certainly originate with an illegal breeding facility. The origins of other individual animals picked up nearby or at other locations are less certain. REST in the Mango Hill subcatchments generally lay single clutches of eggs in summer. They are less fecund than what is usually reported for sliders, however local REST have a protracted breeding season. Incubating eggs can be expected from late summer to autumn, and possibly into spring. The Mango Hill populations consist of immatures and adults of both sexes in several ponds. This indicates a wild population that has been breeding for at least a decade. Based on these findings, it is recommended that eradication efforts continue, with a continued focus on catchments where turtles are confirmed. Historical records and the possibility of illegal trade also indicate the possibility of new finds on the Gold Coast. Early eradication efforts should aim to remove adults, with immatures being ‘picked up’ in subsequent programs. Efforts to involve the community in a ‘slider watch’ should be expanded. REST are exotic turtles that are more aggressive, agile on land, and more liable than native species to disperse. The REST eradication program has found some local evidence for adverse impacts on fish and native turtles. The importance significance of these findings needs to be recognised. Please refer to the Limpus presentation Finding Sliders Sources of Information, Surveying, Capture and Removal Scott O’Keeffe REST Eradication Project Manager, Qld Dept of Natural Resources, Mines & Water. REST are adaptable, and are able to tolerate waters with varying quality. Although they have a preference for still, shallow water, members of the Queensland REST eradication team respond to all sightings, even those in ‘unsuitable’ habitat. This is because abandoned or released pets could be placed in virtually any water body- still, running, fresh or salty. Searches for REST are carried out in response to sightings or specimens received. The objective of early searches is to verify or disprove the presence of REST. If REST are present, additional searches are made to determine the extent of the infestation, and determine whether breeding occurs at the site of the find. Netting has been used as a rapid survey method, and combined with trapping for more intensive survey work. Results of field work suggest that cathedral traps are the most effective capture method, although they are not suitable for use in all circumstances. The eradication project has also made use of retention and exclusion barriers combined with pitfall traps as a passive capture technique. Terrestrial nests and eggs are located using a dedicated detection canine (‘sniffer dog’). Please refer to O'Keeffe's second presentation Working with the Public. Pest Managers, Public Perceptions and Animal Pests Assoc Professor Darryl Jones Centre for Innovative Conservation Strategies, Griffith University. All ‘pest animal’ problems can also be seen as people problems. Exotic pest animals were, and continue to be brought to Australia by people. While we need to look at animal biology to find solutions to pest problems, this isn’t the only place we need to look. Solutions to pest problems will only work if pest managers understand public attitudes to animals, pests and pest management, and how these attitudes are formed. Pest managers also need to understand their own attitudes, and challenge the assumptions they make about their work, and the people they believe (rightly or wrongly) that they are assisting. The REST project should be informed by recent research on local people-animal conflicts where wildlife management professionals have been surprised by the extent to which their views on public attitudes to pest animals have been flawed. An inclusive understanding of the REST problem will open up more opportunities for problem-solving. Click here to go to Jones powerpoint presentation Where Are All These Sliders Coming From? Controlling the International Wildlife Trade With the EPBC Act Marnie Rowe Assistant Director, International Wildlife Trade Section, Department of Environment & Heritage, Canberra. The DEH are responsible for administering the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Act contains a specific section dealing with trade in wildlife. The Act provides the instrument for controlling the trade of protected and prohibited species, including Red- eared Slider Turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans). REST are prohibited in Australia under the EPBC Act. The DEH engage in a variety of enforcement, investigation and training activities in formal and informal partnerships with state and federal agencies. DEH work to control the movement of REST at borders and within the states. DEH seized seven REST between February 2005 and March 2006. Click here to go to Rowe's presentation Disease Risks from Exotic Reptiles What Do We Know? What Are the Risks? Neil Charles Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service Relatively little is known about reptile diseases generally, and in particular about exotic diseases that may be spread via the exotic reptile trade, both legal and illegal. Red-eared Slider turtles present an unknown but potentially important risk to native reptiles, since they are very widely traded overseas and in Australia. It is not clear whether animals being kept and released to the wild in Australia are potential vectors for spread of exotic reptile diseases. From time to time AQIS and Customs Officers intercept imported reptiles coming into Australia through our Airports and Mail Centres. With our concern about reptile diseases and in particular viruses, the outcome for reptiles that have not been imported under any protocol is often euthanasia. This decision is usually made by our veterinary staff, however if the species is listed as endangered and after consultation with DEH then we may approach AQIS approved zoos that have an appropriate Post Arrival Quarantine area to see if there is interest in managing the reptile in isolation for a period of time. Some of the risks with reptiles include adenovirus, iridovirus, herpes virus, retrovirus and paramyxovirus. AQIS level of intervention of goods and passengers at the border has increased significantly in recent years. Prior to that there were certainly holes in the system. For example only a percentage of incoming mail was examined. It would be naïve of me to say that there are no exotic reptiles held illegally in Queensland, however I don’t feel that this practice is as prevalent in this state as it is in New South Wales or Victoria . When NSW held an amnesty a few years back, numerous exotic reptiles were declared. Many of these are now being bred and moved around in small numbers. I am sure that specimens are currently being taken across state borders, and will continue to be in the future. I have no doubt that Red- Figure 3 Reptiles seized at the border by AQIS. Note the eared Sliders are turtles in the foreground. Photo courtesy of AQIS Brisbane kept in every state. The United States still exports 10 million hatchling Red Eared Sliders annually for the pet trade. These animals are exported to many countries around the globe. The Red-eared Slider is, in fact, the most widespread freshwater turtle species in the global pet trade. Just about every book on pet turtles has a photo of a slider on the cover. Just about every turtle care product, has a photo of a slider on it. This helps maintain a perception in the community that this is a common turtle in captivity- their presence in Australia will not generally set any alarm bells ringing in the community. I’ll turn my attention to a couple of the viruses of concern in reptiles: Paramyxovirus and Inclusion Body Disease (IBD). I don’t know if they affect Freshwater Turtles. These two diseases are widespread in captive reptile collections in this country. I know that IBD was recorded in a Diamond Python in a Zoo in NSW in the 1960’s and Paramyxovirus is also commonplace in captive collections. These viruses are arthropod borne or spread by direct contact. Incubation time can be as long as 12 months. I’m not aware of any tests that can give a diagnosis prior to the reptile showing signs of the disease. To date there is no cure. I have sometimes found that vets will misdiagnose the diseases caused by these viruses. Reptile keepers often don’t have dead specimens examined. There is little incentive, because for some keepers the cost of pathology is greater than the cost of replacing the animal. There is also a stigma attached to the presence of this disease in a collection. Collectors fear that if they are identified as having kept diseased animals, trade with other keepers will evaporate. Although our knowledge of the status of these, and other diseases in our wild reptile’s population is unknown I believe that the presence and movement of exotic reptiles certainly put our wild native population at risk. One group of keepers that concerns me is wildlife carers. All states accommodate the interests of wildlife carers, but I feel that we need to manage this activity where wildlife parks keeping exotic reptiles allow native reptiles to be brought in for rehabilitation by staff, or where staff carrying out rehabilitation at home later release ‘rehabilitated’ native reptiles back into the wild. We don’t want them to also inadvertently release a virus in to the wild . Summary and Recommendations Sessions chaired by Steve McKenzie and Jim Thompson Transcript of discussion prepared by Scott O’Keeffe and Mandy Soymonoff The presentations precipitated a lively and productive discussion about the need for REST management, and the requirements to achieve the most appropriate level of control. Three key issues emerged in the discussions. A National REST Strategy It was unanimously agreed that management of REST is justified based on its pest profile. There was also agreement that, based on what is already known and the new information presented at the workshop, management of REST is practical- it is something that we can achieve with the right approach. Development of a well-thought-out national strategy was seen as an important first step. The national strategy should be developed by the VPC. A national REST strategy should: 1. Be based on a national agreement that REST are an important pest species. 2. Support existing measures, especially border protection, to control REST. 3. Affirm opposition to trade in this species. This would help to provide support for AQIS activities in controlling REST at borders. 4. Place REST within the context of a VPC and National Pest Animal Strategy. It was felt that such a strategy could encompass all exotic reptiles, with REST perhaps listed as a priority species. 5. Clarify whether the strategy is one of eradication or some other appropriate level of control. It was agreed that eradication could be pursued in the short term as part of an information gathering exercise. A formal risk assessment should also be undertaken. Although a limited assessment has been undertaken by Queensland authorities, this does not provide a comprehensive description of the risk posed by REST. This exercise is necessary to clarify the status of nationwide status of REST. This information is needed to formulate the most appropriate pest management response. When sufficient information is available, it may be necessary to consider REST management on a ‘case-by-case’ basis. 6. Establish a national REST taskforce. This group would act as a clearing house and repository for information, and coordinate activities between and among state agencies. As a priority, the task force should maintain up to date information on the status of REST and local management activities. 7. As a priority, provide information to REST managers on where to obtain all sorts of assistance- a. Ecological and technical b. Monitoring c. Financial resources 8. Establish standards operating procedures for REST management. SOPs should be regularly reviewed and revised as knowledge and experience are gained. This implies that the Task Force is effectively undertaking coordination and information gathering. 9. Set out what training is required for pest managers with operational and research functions in control programmes. 10. Establish the responsibilities of states, local governments and individuals for control of REST. This would necessarily include a. some comment on funding arrangements for the work. b. Promoting understanding of relevant state and federal legislation. 11. Incorporate a comprehensive review of ways in which risks of invasion from the exotic reptile trade can be reduced. A specific investigation of mandatory sterilisation for captive exotic reptiles was suggested. 12. management on a case-by-case basis 13. Include a communications plan. The plan must effectively communicate the threat to biodiversity from REST. It was suggested that one approach would be to “demonise the enemy”, as is being done with Cane Toads in some states. 14. Promote research of key topics in REST management such as effective surveillance, and the ecology and behaviour of REST under Australian conditions. Questions Need Answers To Advance REST Management The workshop participants agreed that some research is absolutely necessary. Answers to some questions will make the difference between success and failure, and economical as opposed to expensive REST management. There was agreement from workshop participants that we need to know about: 1. Efficiency of monitoring techniques. a. How effective are current monitoring techniques? At present, we do not know how reliable our methods for verifying the presence or absence of REST are. If a body of infested water were treated, we could make a prediction as to when it might be declared free of REST, but at the moment, the prediction would have to be made with little confidence. b. Can we improve the effectiveness of monitoring? A review of methods used in other ecological research is desirable. The review may suggest new approaches or economies. 2. Effectiveness and efficiency of capture methods. At present, we have some basic information about the effectiveness of cathedral traps, but very little is known about: a. bait preferences b. the relative efficacy of different traps (for example basking traps) and nets c. the use of novel lures such as ‘decoy’ turtles, pheromones, etc d. Electrofishing e. Poisons, stupefying agents and others Only anecdotal comparisons have been made between native species and REST. 3. REST under Australian conditions. a. Breeding i. Egg clutch size ii. Clutch frequency iii. Laying and hatching season b. Response to seasons, climate (eg burying in mud) c. Physical adaptations i. Salinity tolerance. We need to clarify what is definitely known (primary sources) and carry out investigations if nothing definitive is available. ii. melanism d. Impacts. Information is needed from field situations on native aquatic wildlife. i. Potential distribution ii. Invasiveness (how invasive are REST under local conditions?) iii. Impacts on native turtles iv. Impacts on fish and frogs e. Behaviour. Movement is especially of interest, and techniques such as radio-tracking have been suggested as worthy of trial to obtain information easily. i. movement (for example will REST cross lakes and rivers?) ii. dispersal f. Diseases 4. Sources of information as yet untapped by the project. a. Amateur herpetological collections b. Historical collections and records 5. Social research. Some social research is likely to have significant benefits for this project. Research on human dimension of pest animals would be needed, for example to a. Counter a desire to keep exotic animals b. Provide accurate and acceptable information on therapeutic properties of turtle products 6. Trapping methods. a. Relative efficiency of trap types, positioning, baits and novel use (eg lures) remains unknown. b. When can a water body be declared ‘free’ from REST? An analysis of capture-recapture data is needed to provide guidance on how long trapping should continue to give high level of certainty that REST are not/no longer present. c. Best trapping season for REST is still unclear. How active are they in cool weather in subtropics? Should be trapping in winter? Managing the captive trade There was considerable discussion about the importance of the captive animal trade. The discussions arose because it was agreed that more attention must be paid to animal distribution networks if eradication is to succeed. Despite the fact that REST are still entering the country, with unknown numbers circulating, relatively little time has been spent on investigating the reptile trade. Much of the discussion was speculative, and it was agreed that dealing with this aspect of animal incursions requires the combined skills of customs specialists, social scientists, legislators, educators, law enforcement experts and biologists. It was acknowledged that while the Queensland eradication project has an important role in understanding and addressing the illegal animal trade, an effective response would necessarily involve 1. The internet trade. Indications are that substantial trade in REST occurs via the internet. Monitoring this activity might provide some idea of the magnitude of the trade. Further investigation is a “compliance” activity. a. monitoring internet trade b. we need to understand how the internet trade fits into the global market for illegal reptiles 2. Determining the extent of the illegal trade. a. We urgently need to collect and collate good intelligence b. We need to thoroughly understanding the pet industry c. We need to establish who the main players are in the illegal trade d. We need much more information about the food and medicinal trade in Australia 3. National management strategy. The illegal trade in REST is a national problem, and requires a coordinated approach to monitoring, and compliance. There were a number of suggestions for approaches to compliance that the participants agreed should be investigated. a. Establishment of an anonymous information hotline b. Swapping REST for native reptiles c. Promotion of keeping native reptiles by making the permitting system easier. d. Bounties e. Allow rest under strict license conditions, for example de-sexing and microchipping f. Establishment of a national licensing system g. Policing of all markets h. Improve consistency of legislation and compliance i. Stricter border restrictions at federal level j. Seek a trade ban with US, who exports the majority of REST k. Since illegality promotes trade, there needs to be full discussion on how different regulatory regimes affects the illegal trade. l. There should be consistent disincentives for illegal keeping: large penalties, more commitment for enforcement, greater public awareness m. reduced annual fees for compliance to permit restrictions 7. Education and awareness. A widespread public awareness program is needed which emphasise the negative impacts of keeping REST a. Ecological impacts of dumped and escaped animals should be emphasised b. There is some thought that we should draw peoples attention to the risk of salmonella carried by REST. It should be noted that all turtles can carry salmonella, however. c. Groups and communities to target include i. Schools ii. pet store owners, iii. reptile enthusiasts, iv. catchments groups d. There are some popular pet products that use REST images for advertising. We should look for ways to discourage this! e. Social research. We need much better information about why people keep REST? Participants agreed that these discussions should be summarised and framed as a set of recommendations to be recorded and presented to the VPC for urgent consideration. It was agreed that prompt action would be needed to maintain the momentum generated by the workshop, and cohesion amongst the participants. Click here to go to Basking Trap Design Field Session Discussions Discussions were held at the field sessions to solicit ideas for content and structure of the REST best practice management manual. These discussions proved very useful, and many of the suggestions made by participants have now been incorporated into the first version of the REST manual. Emphasis was placed on: • providing good background on the species, as this is critical in providing a rationale for control work, and in planning • stepwise description of practical aspects of control and management • collection of information that assists adaptive management Field Sessions: Learning by Doing Cathedral traps are designed especially for capturing turtles. Here, they are erected, baited…. … and laid using a canoe. This work site is at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, in the Boondall Wetlands. Darren Sheil from Pine Rivers Shire Council demonstrates the use of a detection dog, successfully used in the Queensland REST eradication program for…. … finding REST eggs Seine nets are cleaned and prepared for use, then laid using a small boat at the Boondall Wetlands Seine nets are hauled in by hand.. No Red-eared Sliders were captured during the workshop, but participants learned how to identify four species of native turtle. Here we see a Broad-shelled Turtle (Chelodina expansa) captured at Halpine Dam Participants learned how to make measurements and handle animals. The Workshop Team At Boondall REST Extension Materials www.biosecurityqld.qld.gov.au An Abridged REST Bibliography ACUNA-MESEN and RAFAEL ARTURO, 1992. Potential exploitation of captive Slider Turtles (Trachemys scripta) in Costa Rica: A preliminary study. Brenesia. 0(38).157-158. AGOSTA et al., 1999. Autoecology and synecological relationships in populations of Trachemys scripta elegans introduced in Lombardy. Preliminary data. Rivista di Idrobiologia. 38(1-3). Gennaio-Dicembre, 1999. 421-430. ARESCO, M. J. 2004. Reproductive ecology of Pseudemys floridana and Trachemys scripta (Testudines: Emydidae) in northwestern Florida. Journal of Herpetology 38:249-256. -------- 2005. The effect of sex-specific terrestrial movements and roads on the sex ratio of freshwater turtles. Biological Conservation 123:37-44. 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A comparison of aquatic drift fences with traditional funnel trapping as a quantitative method for sampling amphibians. Herpetological Review 35:148-150. WITZELL, W.N. 1999. Aquatic turtles (Testudines: Emydidae) in an urban south Florida man- made pond. Florida Scientist. 62 (3-4): 172-174. YAO, H. H. -., AND B. CAPEL. 2005. Temperature, genes, and sex: A comparative view of sex determination in Trachemys scripta and Mus musculus. Journal of Biochemistry 138:5-12. YEOMANS, S. R. 1995. Water-finding in adult turtles: Random search or oriented behaviour? Animal Behaviour 49:977-987. The Queensland “Reeve Trap” Modified American basking trap for turtles This is what the trap looks like on land, propped up so that you can see roughly how it sits in the water. The trap is essentially a pvc pipe frame with a basket suspended underneath. It has 2 approach ramps that allow turtles to climb up and bask on the frame. As they move, they slip, and fall into the basket to be collected later. The trap is anchored in the water with a rope attached to a flat metal bar that sits on the bottom of the pond. Plastic pvc pipe 90 deg elbow to fit. Fasten 10cm cm diam with plumbers pvc adhesive Basking trap frame 120 cm x 120 cm Fasten ramp to Capture basket frame with pipe constructed of clamps; leave some trawler mesh with slack so ramps can 2cm squares pivot Wire frame covered with Approach mesh, then overlaid with ramp wire bark, gasket cork or frame other natural material. dimensions Fasten with zip ties 120 cm x 35 cm Flexible 1.5 cm diam pvc pipe stays hold ramps in place and Side panel is Capture basked suspends from capture basket fully expanded about 20 cm main body, has heavy wire frame deep. on bottom Anchor with stout rope connected to flat steel bar dimensions circa 10cm x 30 cm x 1.5 cm Red-Eared Slider Turtles Status in New Zealand Patrick Whaley Biosecurity in New Zealand – Department of Technical Officer “Any organism that a ChiefConservation believes is– Local government capable of capable or potentially causing unwanted harm to any natural or physical – Environmental Risk Management human health” resources or Authority – Ministry of Fisheries – Ministry of Health – Biosecurity NZ (MAF) Why assess REST? Considered priority for risk assessment: – Australia, USA, Europe – Nominated top 100 worst invaders – Widely sold throughout NZ Risk assessment 10 criteria compared against current knowledge Key criteria include: • Form self sustaining populations • Compete with and have adverse effects on native species. What did we find out? High possibly that REST meet two or more of the key criteria. Specifically: • Self Sustaining Population • Possible (Uncertain) • Effect native species • Likely Are NZ habitats suitable? Yes No ??? Water temperature Diet Habitat Climate Temperature requirements for REST • Eggs to hatch ~ 22- 30°C for between 55-80 days • Incubation – Males 26-28°C and Females 30-31°C Impact on native species? • REST omnivorous • Negative impacts - fauna and flora • Local endemics in warm coastal lakes & wetlands Potential Management • Limited tools? • Labour intensive • Local scale only Any population detected and controlled as soon as possible Where does this leave us? • Pet trade considerations • Education and Advocacy • Unwanted Organism Status Acknowledgements Biosecurity NZ DOC staff • Verity Forbes • Joanne Perry Landcare Research NZ & MfE for use of temp surface map. Red-eared Slider Turtles in Victoria Prepared by Keith Larner Senior Investigator (Exotic Wildlife) Compliance Support Group Department of Sustainability & Environment Victoria, Australia Background • The ED C&W Division contracted Melbourne University and PriceWaterhouse Coopers to review the Dept.’s current management of exotic vertebrate pests. • Major problems were identified and recommendations were made to the Dept. • C&W funded RSD to implement the Exotic Pest Animal Project. VPS3 Project Leader embedded with the PPR Flora & Fauna Compliance Unit. • Project Leader was tasked to advise on policy needs, develop procedures, train and equip Authorised Officers with the skills necessary to lead investigations, conduct warrant actions & supervise the PEST licensing database. External Partners • DPI Fisheries Statewide Investigation & Intelligence Group, •Victoria Police, • Environmental Investigations Unit, Dept of Environment & Heritage, •Australian Customs Service, •Australian Crime Commission, •DPI Catchment Management Officers, & •Interstate counterparts Investigations • All investigations are desktop driven based on intelligence. • Intelligence is obtained from numerous sources. • Surveillance is used only as a tool to confirmed certain facts. • Evidence is gathered by both overt and covert means. • Warrant actions are successful because they are based on good intelligence, thorough planning and a high level of co-operation between participating agencies. Seizures of REST » Seized Handed In Found • 2003 - 04 0 1 1 • 2004 - 05 7 1 3 • 2005 – 06 7 3 0 • Financial year Review of all exotic reptile seizures Wildlife licence holders 68% Illicit drugs 36% Unlicensed firearms 11% Illegal activity – Staff at some Melbourne retail pet shops & aquariums were detected selling exotic reptiles, including REST (Operation Husky). – Increased detections of Red-eared Slider turtles as pets. Observations • 2005 saw the first seizure of male REST, • All male REST seizures were juveniles, • Juveniles were seized in western & south east suburbs of Melbourne. • Some REST had been kept up to 13 years as pets. • 2 REST have been recovered from a Melbourne waterway. • 2 REST recovered from side of road. Future Threats • Introduction of exotic diseases and parasites. Inclusion Body Disease and Paramyxois Virus are now in Australia, • Destruction of habitat by Red-eared Slider Turtles (REST), • Destruction of frog populations by REST & Newts, • People being bitten by deadly venomous exotic reptiles such as Indo-Chinese Spitting Cobras, Rattlesnakes & Vipers, • Illegal collections being dumped in the wild, REST, Cornsnakes and Boas. • Some species establishing and proliferating in the wild. QLD is trying to eradicate REST and NSW has found populations of Cornsnakes in the wild. • Reduced effort by DSE will send wrong message to offenders. RED EARED SLIDER TURTLES IN WA History of Sliders in WA • 1997 – 1 pet held for about 10 years – seized by CALM and letter of warning issued. • 1999 – reptile keeper held four 4 - prosecuted and fined a total of $5000 and $800 costs. • 2000 – 1 pet, seized by CALM and letter of warning. • 2005 – 5 held as part of a larger collection – Customs charges still pending. • 2004 – 1 found on Perth suburb roadway. • 2005 – 1 removed from Tomato lake Perth suburb. Red-eared Sliders in WA Total: 13 Sliders. Five legally held at wildlife park under a Permission Certificate issued under ARRPA and listed on CALM wildlife permit. Wildlife legislation includes regulation 55 – prohibited imports penalty $2000. Incursion at Tomato Lake Animal reported by member of the public. Quickly declared an incident by DAWA – priority for resources. Agreement between DAWA, CALM and City of Belmont to work together. Surveillance with help from local residents carried out while sourcing information and techniques. Trapping initiated using best available information and techniques. Tomato Lake Kewdale Trap Type Used at Tomato Lake 5 traps were used in Tomato Lake Captured Red-eared Slider Findings Identified as an adult female red eared slider about 10 year old. It was gravid with fertile eggs ready for laying and had not bred earlier in this summer. This year was her second breeding season as she had ovulated previously. The external condition of the animal indicated that it had probably not come from a captive situation, all indications were that it had been in a soft-bottom habitat for an extended period. Virology, parasitology and bacteriology profiles were done but there were no significant findings . Proposed future action Use the information and skills obtained from this workshop to improve our method and techniques. Carry out follow up surveillance of the lake and surrounding drains and water bodies. Carry out further trapping and perhaps try drag net. People Matter …apparently Darryl Jones Wildlife-Human Interactions Traditional wildlife management Clear, population-orientated aims Profession traditionally practiced in isolation Public provided negligible input Managers trained and acted as experts and authorities ‘Societal’ goals were the profession’s goals Great advances in ecological, technical, analytical dimensions….. Wildlife management also has a human dimension Unpacking the “people problem” “Identifying what people think and do regarding wildlife, understanding why, and incorporating these insights into policy and actions” Decker & Lipscomb 1991 “Whether we agree with them or not, if people perceive that there is a problem, there is a problem!” Dzechioch 2002 Perceptions: Crows and Geckos “Something’s got to be done!” Popular attitude: Pests = problem = action required Often poor understanding of: Extent of impact Availability of appropriate approaches Eradication vs control Costs vs benefits Testing assumptions Agency Knowledge: “People want magpies killed” Interview survey in Brisbane Support for lethal control Green 5% Random 3% Victims 30% Suburban Wildlife Feeding •Actively promoted by Northern Hemisphere wildlife agencies and organisations •As a conservation action •Improved survival and health in winter •Enhancement of conservation ethos Why do people feed wildlife? (Howard & Jones (2004) A qualitative study of wildlife feeding in urban areas. In: Urban Wildlife: More than Meets the Eye (Eds Lunney & Burgin) NSWRZS) •Gives pleasure 75% •To atone for human damage 39% •Educate about nature 30% •Attract wildlife 23% The key challenge in contemporary wildlife management: Working with People Unavoidable public scrutiny Seek direct and indirect influence Increasing political involvement Advent of ‘stakeholders’ and ‘clients’ Move to deeper engagement with public The new frontier: suburbia Includes sprawling peri-urban fringe Massive increase in human-wildlife conflicts Perplexing perceptions, fantastic expectations Major conflicts, community-based successes Animal welfare matters Confront conflict resolution Who owns pest problems? INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Red Eared Slider Management Workshop 2006 Department of the Environment and Heritage Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Legislation DEH administers the EPBC Act Part 13A of EPBC Act – International movement of wildlife specimens DEH controls all live imports, all exports of native species and the import or export of CITES species INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Legislation cont. International Wildlife Trade Section (IWT) administers Part 13A and has responsibility for the following: •Issuing permits, import and export •Administering seizures, including live specimens •Organising trade communications •Training Australian Customs Service (ACS) officers •Undertaking compliance and monitoring activities •CITES Management Authority INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Partnerships DEH has a memorandum of understanding with the ACS for Part 13A • ACS undertaken all wildlife activities at the border • Day to day contact for advice • Provide all training for wildlife issues • 24hr mobile contact to assist ACS officers INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Partnerships cont. IWT has no formal arrangements with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) but work closely together In particular for live specimens, temporary housing and identification AQIS disease risk is a major consideration for live specimens INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Partnerships cont. DEH has a dedicated Environment Investigations Unit (EIU). EIU work with other law enforcement agencies to fight wildlife crime. A number of recent joint operations with other State and Territory agencies targeting exotic reptiles and birds. INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION REST in Australia • High pest risk • No live import allowed under EPBC Act • Populations do already exist in Australia • Mainly for pet trade • 2004 Reptile amnesty, 18 REST surrendered from various states INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Live import list Import of live animals and plants is prohibited unless the species appears on the list of specimens suitable for live import (live import list) List contains two parts 1. Species that do not need an import permit under the EPBC Act. 2. Regulated live specimens that do require an import permit under the EPBC Act. If a species is not on the list, an application must be made to the Minister to amend the list to add that species before it can be imported. INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Recent seizures • Mar 2006, 3 REST seized in Vic, currently under investigation • Aug 2005, 2 REST seized in Brisbane airport, part of illegal shipment of 39 reptiles – 3.5 years imprisonment Feb 2005, 2 REST seized in Melbourne airport • All specimens seized at the border were euthanased INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Summary • EPBC Act prohibits the import of REST into Australia • DEH is active in relation to REST at the border and in the States • DEH is working closely with other agencies • Any specimens seized at the border are euthanased INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE TRADE REGULATION Questions?