New measures have been unleashed to sniff out an alien breed of turtle before it can take hold of the state's waterways as part of a calculated raid to eradicate the invading species, in turn stopping it spreading to regional areas like Orange.
The NSW Government has deployed a dog squad trained to 'nose out' invasive pests across Sydney's parklands as it aims to stamp out red-eared slider turtles and avoid irreparable damage to the state's biodiversity.
These turtles are an extremely serious introduced biosecurity threat, and we need to extinguish them from our waterways.Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall
Although the turtle looks harmless Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall, ominously, labelled it 'one of the world's worst invasive alien species'.
"These turtles are an extremely serious introduced biosecurity threat, and we need to extinguish them from our waterways," Mr Marshall said.
"There has been no spread beyond Sydney and the Central Coast. But that's exactly why early detection measures, including community reporting and this squad of dogs is so important - to keep alien turtles out of waterways right across NSW including in the Central West."
The red-eared slider turtles were introduced from North and Central America and prey on native species, but the damage they do isn't limited to Australia's various turtle species.
"These invasive turtles came from the US and Mexico, they pray on our native species like fish and frogs, compete for food, nesting areas and basking sites. They can even spread infectious salmonella bacteria to people, pets and other animals," Mr Marshall explained.
"Our highly trained scent detector dogs have the ability to nose out traces of these invaders above and below the water. While experts in camouflage, the red-eared slider turtles have nowhere to hide.
"We have already removed hundreds of red-eared slider turtles from Sydney waterways and the hands of illegal keepers, but this is just the start."
Largely, it appears the turtles have been issued on the black market and Mr Marshall reiterated the fact keeping them as pets is still prohibited.
"These alien species have been smuggled into, illegally kept and illegally released in Australia which have been found across the Sydney basin," Mr Marshall said.
"They are often illegally purchased when they are very small and attractive, but grow rapidly into large adults capable of biting their owners.
"Red-eared slider turtles might appear to be an ideal pet when small, but they are vicious. If you see one, or you have inadvertently purchased one - or have one that you no longer wish to keep - contact us immediately so we can safely remove them."
The NSW Department of Primary Industries, based in Orange, has also collaborated with a number of different organisations and the University of Canberra to develop a new range of tracking and trapping devices for trial.
Members of the community are advised to be on the lookout for unusual non-native animals, including turtles, snakes, lizards and other reptiles, mammals, birds and amphibians.
If you see a red-eared slider turtle or any other illegal invasive animals, please contact NSWDPI on 1800 680 244 or take a photograph and post the details on the unusual animal form.
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