Americans Invade Spanish Ponds

2011_10_14 PO - Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
It has always been a problem, and worldwide has caused some serious or even catastrophic environmental disasters. Take the Cane Toad or Rabbit in Australia, the Grey Squirrel or Zebra Mussel in Ireland, or in Spains case, the American Louisiana Crayfish.
The Spanish Terrapin, above, is found on the Iberian Pensinsula except parts of the north. If it´s anywhere else it was introduced, such as North Africa. They can live up to 20 years but males only reach maturity at 7 and females at 10. They are generally of a grey-brown colour as can be seen in the top photograph whilst the younger terrapins can have yellow, or as in the above case, red markings on each plate. They are a frequent sight in the ponds and along river banks here in La Mancha. Whenever you walk along a river there is always the plopping sound of them jumping into the safety of the water from their sun basking perches on rocks or logs.

2011_10_14 PO -  )
Red-eared Terrapin (Trachemys scripta)
The above photograph is a Red-eared Terrapin or Slider. These are an American species which have been released into the wild by people who owned them as pets but let them go when they got too big I suppose. It is with this invasive species that the Spanish Terrapin now has to compete with for food. It´s fast moving and a good swimmer. It was annoying to find one of these just a few metres away from the Spanish species. Nobody likes to see invasive species really do they?
I do wish people would take more care where the environment is involved. You can´t just go and release a pet or animal into the wild when it was not meant to be there in the first place. Here in La Mancha we have the American Louisiana Crayfish which has ousted almost to extinction the European Freshwater Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) by being resistant to crayfish plague, which it actually carries itself. It´s a queer twist of fate: Spain and the Americas have been trading deadly diseases for centuries. Catfish have been introduced to reservoirs as have pike. All of these introductions, which were generally for economic or sporting reasons, upset the delicate balance of any environment. So, what do you do when you want to get rid of your turtle? Take it to the vet, not the river. Or make terrapin soup if you don´t mind eating your pets…although they say there´s not much meat on the Red-eared Terrapin.

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