Once pets, exotic turtles threaten wildlife and public health in Poland

Colorful and docile, these turtles are threatening the balance of nature in Poland – and are potentially spreading diseases to other animals and to humans. Exotic turtles such as the red-eared slider and the yellow-bellied slider are native to the Americas – and they are popular as pets. But when careless owners release them into the wild, they become pests. With no natural predators, scientists say these turtles are ruining the ecosystem. SOUNDBITE (Polish) HEAD OF EPICRATES FOUNDATION, BARTLOMIEJ GORZKOWSKI, SAYING: “It is worth mentioning that one turtle is capable of eating over 10 kilograms of hard roe and amphibian spawn in a year. This causes imbalance in a delicate ecosystem and is highly dangerous. Secondly, there is a matter of carrying pathogens, often pathogens unknown in our own environment, which our indigenous species are not immune to. And I think these are the most significant problems and threats.” These pathogens include a form of Chlamydia, which is known to be transferable to humans. SOUNDBITE (Polish) NATIONAL VETERINARY INSTITUTE RESEARCHER, PHD MONIKA SZYMANSKA-CZERWINSKA, SAYING: “That is why considering the fact that turtles occur in a natural environment where people often spend their free time, there is a risk that they can even constitute a threat to public health.” In an effort to control the dangerous turtle population, volunteers from the Epicrates Foundation set traps to catch them. It is believed that since Poland opened its borders in 1989, more than one million invasive turtles have been brought into the country.

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