Post by: Kelly Wallace of Think Turtle Conservation Initiative in Bancroft; a partner of the Turtle Guardian's Program
Prompted by the Think Turtle post on 21/10/2018 the following article is to do with the red-eared slider and why I view this turtle species as the "underdog" of the turtle world. This is in fact a topic I have wanted to write about for a while but have been too busy.
First, please note that it is illegal to possess any of the eight turtle species native to Ontario and this includes the painted turtle that people have been known to confuse with red-eared sliders. Sliders are notably different with the distinct red stripe on both sides of it's head. They are not a turtle species native to Ontario and are instead originally from the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico but now found worldwide. In Ontario they are available to purchase as pets but are not as readily available in pet stores as they once were.
Sadly people purchase sliders when they are cute and small not giving much thought to the fact that they could grow to 12" (30.48 cm) in length which involves tank size upgrades (10 gallons per 1 inch of shell), a filtration system and special UVB reptile lighting is needed, in captivity a well cared for healthy slider can live, 20, 30 even 40 years making them a long term commitment and with this there is of course the ongoing financial outlay. Sliders kept as pets to some are considered smelly, Salmonella is a concern with prevention easily remedied but kids/adults that do not wash their hands after handling turtles run the risk of being infected, as well turtles are messy eaters and in truth no filtration system can truly keep up with the larger sized sliders, a separate feeding tank can help with that but again adds to the cost and chores for the owner. It is often children that sliders are purchased for as a starter pet and when the child loses interest or as the responsibilities become more then expected the turtle is viewed as a burden.
As a result of this many red-eared sliders are given up on, some are responsibly submitted to rescue centers such as The Little RES Q in Pefferlaw, Ontario that hopefully go on to get adopted, others are unfortunately released into the wild where they are considered an invasive species. Depending on the state of a sliders health if released into the wild they may infect an otherwise healthy turtle population in the area they are released and/or once in the wild their behavior can become quite aggressive towards other turtles resulting in competing for food and very possibly pushing the native turtle species out of the area. I think of this as if a turtle spent the first part of it's life in an aquarium and then was released into the wild it is not surprising that they would go hog wild with the prospect of their new much more appealing environment.
There are also incidents in the pet trade of pet stores being supplied sickly turtles by breeders, further to this there are pet stores that do not routinely quarantine turtles for a period of time to ensure they are healthy followed by unsuspecting customers being sold turtles that die prematurely. Likely due to over breeding young red-eared sliders dying is prevalent and some pet stores even offer a plan that if you pay an extra fee and your slider dies within a certain amount of time the turtle will be replaced. I always try to encourage people not to buy sliders as pets because of the reasons previously mentioned but if they are fixed on this then I ask them to please adopt. There are red-eared-sliders posted on Kijiji available to adopt, however you get what you pay for including possibly a unhealthy turtle, the best place to adopt a slider is through The Little RES Q. They have quite a few adoption kiosks set-up and there is a map on their Facebook page.
Over the years due to legal and illegal practices red-eared sliders have suffered considerably. In some parts of the world baby red eared sliders are farmed by the millions and shipped to pet stores globally, larger sliders possibly end up at meat markets. These activities and more have contributed to sliders being noted as health and environmental threats. Sliders confiscated by authorities via illegal trade in some countries are euthanized by freezing and other means. This is a turtle species that is caught in the vicious cycle of consumer supply and demand and as much as it pangs me to say this if people globally continue to purchase sliders their fate as outlined will continue.
In China red-eared sliders have been the victim of cruel practices for years. One being live sliders are packaged in a sealed plastic pouches with a small amount of colored water and sold as necklaces and key chains. This is aimed at the tourist trade with the idea being these trinkets will bring good luck to the purchaser. Merchants have been documented justifying this by stating that the purchaser can let the turtle go and keep the turtle. In truth, after the sellers get their money there is no regard for what happens to the turtles. Most turtles would suffer severe stress, starve, suffocate and die in their own feces infested water. There are no animal welfare laws in China protecting turtles or other animals against such hideous treatment. Attempts have been made to ban this cruel practice but to date they have been unsuccessful. There is a petition to sign if you feel inclined. Google ...Live Animals Are Still Being Sold in Key-chains and Mobile Phone Trinkets – Let’s Stop This NOW!
How anyone could treat any animal in such a way or purchase something of this nature defies understanding.
The thought of what goes on with red-eared sliders is disheartening and why I stand by my claim that they are the underdogs of the turtle world through no fault of their own. Please know that I am well aware there are plenty of people that have red-eared sliders as pets and do right by them. I am so thankful of these people that are intent on providing their slider(s) with the best possible care and are it it for the duration. I love red-eared sliders dearly and have fond memories of the ones I had when I was growing up until I was forced to give them up.
In conclusion, the efforts The Little RES Q makes to look out for red-eared sliders and locate good homes for them is to be admired. One day I hope to be in a position where I can provide a good home for a couple of adopted sliders myself but that time is not now I am far too busy. If you are thinking of adopting please do so responsibly knowing all the responsibilities this entails before making that decision. Thank you.
Think Turtle Conservation Initiative