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					  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
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(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.

BC ENVIRONMENT RESOURCES INVENTORY BRANCH. 1998. Inventory methods for pond-
    breeding amphibians and painted turtle. 37.

BJORNDAL, K. A. 1991. Diet mixing: Non-additive interactions of diet items in an omnivorous
    freshwater turtle. Ecology 72:1234-1241.

BODIE, J. R., AND R. D. SEMLITSCH. 2000. Spatial and temporal use of floodplain habitats by
    lentic and lotic species of aquatic turtles. Oecologia 122:138-146.

BODIE, J. R., R. D. SEMLITSCH, AND R. B. RENKEN. 2000. Diversity and structure of turtle
    assemblages: Associations with wetland characters across a floodplain landscape. Ecography
    23:444-456.

BOMFORD, M. 2003. Risk–Assessment for the Import and Keeping of Exotic Vertebrates in
Australia. Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.

BORJAS, G., G. G. MARTEN, E. FERNANDEZ, AND H. PORTILLO. 1993. Juvenile turtles for
   mosquito control in water storage tanks. Journal of Medical Entomology 30:943-946.

BOUCHARD, S. S., AND K. A. BJORNDAL. 2006. Ontogenetic diet shifts and digestive constraints
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BOWEN, K. D., R. -. SPENCER, AND F. J. JANZEN. 2005. A comparative study of environmental
   factors that affect nesting in Australian and north American freshwater turtles. Journal of
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BRACKEE, G., R. GUNTHER, AND C. S. GILLETT. 1992. Diagnostic exercise: High mortality in
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BROWNE, C. L., AND S. J. HECNAR. 2005. Capture success of northern map turtles (Graptemys
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BUDEN, D.W., LYNCH, D.B., and ZUG, G.R. 2001. Recent records of exotic reptiles on Pohnpei,
Eastern Caroline Islands, Micronesia. Pacific Science. 55 (1): 65.

BURKE, V. J., J. L. GREENE, AND J. WHITFIELD GIBBONS. 1995. The effect of sample size and
   study duration on metapopulation estimates for slider turtles (Trachemys scripta).
   Herpetologica 51:451-456.
BURKE, V. J., S. L. RATHBUN, J. R. BODIE, AND J. W. GIBBONS. 1998. Effect of density on
   predation rate for turtle nests in a complex landscape. Oikos 83:3-11.

CABRERA PEÑA, J., J. R. ROJAS, G. GALEANO, AND V. MEZA. 1996. Embryonic mortality and
   hatching rate of Trachemys scripta (Testudines: Emydidae) eggs artificially grown in a
   protected natural area. Revista De Biologia Tropical 44:841-846.

CADI, A., AND P. JOLY. 2003. Competition for basking places between the endangered European
    pond turtle (Emys orbicularis galloitalica) and the introduced red- eared slider (Trachemys
    scripta elegans). Canadian Journal of Zoology 81:1392-1398.

-------- 2004. Impact of the introduction of the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) on
        survival rates of the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis). Biodiversity and Conservation
        13:2511-2518.

CADI, A., P. JOLY, A. CADI, V. DELMAS, A. -. PRÉVOT-JULLIARD, M. GIRONDOT, AND C.
    PIEAU. 2004. Successful reproduction of the introduced slider turtle (Trachemys scripta
    elegans) in the south of France. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
    14:237-246.

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 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?

				
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