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Short Notes on Nature Singapore

7 June 2020 | Red-eared Terrapin | Trachemys scripta elegans |

photo On 23 May, I picked up a presumably abandoned Red-eared Terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans) at the landing of the lift lobby at my apartment block. Its body was dry. The turtle was about 15 by 11 centimetres in size, quite a mid-size fellow. To give it a temporary home, I emptied a large storage container and filled it with water to slightly above its height. A small platform above the water level was added to allow it to stay dry if it chose to do so.

Red-eared Terrapin is more commonly known as Red-eared Slider. It is the most popular pet turtle in the world including Singapore and sold in aquarium shops here. Its native regions are southern United States and northern Mexico but due to the frequent release of this pet into the wild, it has now become a naturalised species here.

A 2009 theses on red-eared sliders in Singapore provided a detailed account of the status of this Terrapin back then. The report noted that this turtle had been living in the water of Singapore for over 25 years and a total of 1,253,091 individuals were imported in 2007. There was a more recent post in September 2019 that summed up the pet-keeping situation of this turtle here. It also made reference to the theses mentioned. This turtle is one of the 6 invasive species highlighted in a news report here in March 2018. An article by NParks in 2015 also featured it as one of the Invasive Alien Species (IAS). I am wondering why Singapore does not ban the import of this turtle.

photo I tried serving the new found turtle with Water Spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) but it refused to bite. Eventually, I had to get turtle pellets from an aquarium shop and it likes it. I guessed it must have been eating this stuff in the past. Later, I found out that it loves Papaya (Carica papaya) and do not mind having cabbage as well.

I doubt the owner would want to claim it back. SPCA Singapore had stated their position on keeping this turtle as a pet and had a care guide on their website but no advice on treatment of abandoned turtle. Nevertheless, there is a Rehoming Notice Board for people to post if they plan to re-home their pets. A 3-year-old terrapin by the name Squirt was posted when I visited the site on 5 June. Since there are already plenty of them being released in the wild and nobody seemed to want it, I will keep this one off the wild for the time being.

The turtle reminded me of the Jurong Turtle Museum that was supposed to close in March 2018. After looking up for the latest news, I realised that it was relocated to the leisure park Orto in Yishun in January 2019. They are also not keen to take in abandoned turtles.

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