A pond slider is seen on a tree branch by a lake in Bijia Hill Park, Futian District, on May 1, 2021.
We all have seen pond turtles (Trachemys scripta) at least once in our lives, whether it is in a river, a lake or a pond, or, sadly, being sold on street markets as if they were toys or a silly souvenir.
These fabulous animals are characterized by a striking orange stain on the sides of its oval head, with a pointy snout. The carapace (upper shell) is greenish to brownish; it also bears a beautiful set of yellow lines with attractive patterns on it. Females are bigger than males and can grow up to 30 cm long, able to survive both in water and on land. A female slider can lay up to four clutches a year; each clutch can have up to 10 or more eggs at a time. When turtles hatch, they are very vulnerable due to their small size, restricted diet and softer carapaces; however, as an introduced species they have a better chance to survive.
A pond slider rests on a lodge in a lake in Bijia Hill Park, Futian District, on Feb. 18, 2021.
Pond sliders are not supposed to be part of our landscape. This species, sought after for its particular beauty, is native to the United States and was later introduced to the entire world due to an endless circle of animal trafficking, which I wish will come to an end one day.
As an introduced species, pond sliders are not creating a positive impact on our environment. They compete for resources with the local species and even displace them, feeding on almost everything they can find and taking advantage of not having natural predators here.
Juvenile pond sliders are basically carnivores, feeding on insects of all kinds, little fish and sometimes dead animals. In adulthood, with changes in their physiology, they become omnivores, also feeding on plants and therefore expand their chances of survival.
When we feel like doing the right thing and release an animal into wilderness, we are actually doing harm. We release an unprepared animal into an unprepared ecosystem. The best we can do to help these little fellas is to stop buying them as pets and to teach others not to do so — until one day, stores will have to give up selling them. It seems like an impossible task, but we can always afford dreaming about a better future.