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Gold Coast natural environment

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Red Eared Slider Turtle

Red Eared Slider Turtle close up

Distinctive red strip behind the eye
© Reproduced with permission from
Biosecurity Qld

Red Eared Slider Turtle

Slider turtles inhabit fresh water
© Reproduced with permission from
Biosecurity Qld

The Red-Eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) is category 2,3,4,5 and 6 restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014. They may also be known by the name Penny Turtle.

Landowners must take reasonable steps to keep land free of pests. It is illegal to keep, breed, sell, or knowingly harbour any pest animal.

The Red Eared Slider Turtle is included in the top 100 of the world's worst invasive species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to their invasive nature and their potential to significantly impact biodiversity.

Problems caused by Red-Eared Slider Turtles

Environmental damage

  • Red-Eared Slider Turtles are potentially very aggressive and may out-compete native species for food, basking and nesting sites in our waterways and wetlands.
  • They have the potential to carry diseases, pathogens and parasites, which may be transferable to native animals impacting on their potential for survival.
  • They may prey on native species such as aquatic reptiles, frogs, fish, crustaceans and insects.

Social harm

  • Large specimens can be aggressive and may inflict a painful bite when handled.

Economic damage

  • Their presence in wetlands and waterways may affect water quality by disrupting natural ecology.
  • Their predation of native wildlife may reduce the tourism value of wetlands and waterways.

Prevention and control

Under the provisions of the Biosecurity Act 2014, Category 2 pests in Queensland are subject to eradication from the State.


Slider Turtle traps and nets are designed to capture turtles, while eliminating any risk of trap or self-induced injury to the turtle. Trapping is often difficult as Slider Turtles tend to relocate or bury themselves deep in the sediment of a water body when disturbed.

During the trapping operations many native turtle species are also caught in the traps. These turtles are returned to the water as soon as possible after some simple data is collected (size, sex and general condition). Collection of this valuable information provides an insight into the condition of local native turtle populations.

Visual surveys

Trained personnel conduct visual surveys at sites where Red-Eared Slider Turtles potentially occur. Reports obtained from the community also help in the control of this exotic reptile.


Ongoing monitoring of sites known and potential habitats is essential for eradication to be successful.

What you can do

Be on the lookout for Red-Eared Slider Turtles and report any suspected sightings immediately. Reports obtained from the community assist in the control of this exotic reptile.

Report red-eared slider turtles

To report that you have seen a Slider Turtle or that you have one to be collected, phone the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on 13 25 23 or City of Gold Coast on 1300 GOLD COAST or 07 5582 8211.

What they look like

  • an exotic freshwater turtle with a red stripe behind the eyes, which often fades with age
  • they may have plain or patterned shells
  • the males possess long, narrow claws
  • it is the only turtle in Australia that retracts its head straight back into the shell. Our native turtles wrap their heads around to the side of the shell
  • they grow to around 30 centimetres in length, but hatchlings may only be about the size of a fifty cent piece.

Where they live

  • they are a native of the Mississippi drainage system of the United States
  • they are now a well-established problem in many parts of the world
  • they have established isolated wild breeding populations in the greater Brisbane region and individuals have been identified on the Gold Coast
  • they prefer still, shallow fresh water bodies, but disperse to new areas via running streams, creeks and irrigation channels, and also over land
  • they tolerate poor quality and brackish water.

City of Gold Coast acknowledges the assistance of Biosecurity Queensland in preparing this information and supplying photographic images.

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