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March 31, 2011

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Officials: Red-eared turtles are dangerous

WILDLIFE protection authorities yesterday called for pet raisers not to release red-eared sliders into local rivers, warning they will damage the ecological balance.

According to Buddhist traditions, freeing captive animals brings virtue and merits to a person in the next life, thus many believers buy animals or reptiles and let them loose.

This is especially common around the Qingming Festival, which falls next Tuesday this year. Turtles and fish are commonly freed.

Red-eared sliders, which are native to Brazil, Central America and the southeastern United States, are available in most flower and bird markets in Shanghai.

Vendors said most Shanghai people buy sliders to set them free or to raise as pets, but in Guangdong Province, many people eat them.

The trade has aroused strong concern among officials.

"The sliders have a strong ability to adapt to local rivers and they threaten turtles native to Shanghai," said Pei En'le, director of the Shanghai Wildlife Protection Center.

Pei said they checked more than 10 parks and found only red-eared sliders living in rivers or lakes. No native turtles were spotted.

"Although we cannot confirm this was caused solely by the sliders, it is a big warning.

"It's impossible for us to monitor everyone releasing creatures into waterways.

All we can do is tell people about the harm these turtles cause," Pei said.


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