During our stay in Hungary we had the opportunity to learn about the recovery program of the European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis). We accompanied the team of Rangers on a field trip to eradicate the Red-eared Turtle (Trachemys scripta) and visited an area where the European tortoises breed and where strategies have been established to protect their nests and young.
The European Pond Turtle is distributed throughout central and southern Europe. Currently its conservation status is in jeopardy due to threats that are difficult to combat, such as habitat destruction and introduced species like the Red-eared turtle.
The Red-eared turtle is a species that has been introduced around the world due to the pet trade. The damage triggered by their introduction to the local fauna is very worrying and it is an invincible competitor of the European pond turtle. In Hungary, although specimens have been irresponsibly released into the wild, fortunately there has been no evidence that they are able to reproduce so control could be effective. However, in Spain this invasive species breeds in nature and its elimination is very complicated.
We went with the rangers to collect the traps that are placed regularly and where both native European Pond Turtle and the invasive Red-eared slider turtle species are trapped, unharmed. We inspected all the captured animals, freeing the European Pond Turtles back into the wild and removing the Red-eared turtles.
We also visited an area where Europeans turtles breed each year. Unfortunately, due to the proliferation of foxes and other predators like badgers a few years ago, the offspring of these animals are preyed upon. To maintain the population, part of this conservation program includes the protection of the nests from predators by using trellises that allow small turtles to come to the surface but prevents predators from accessing the eggs.
Watching these wonderful animals in their natural environment is a unique experience. Every effort is necessary to recover such an iconic and threatened species such as the European Pond Turtle, and we must start by recognizing the great danger of introduced species to our valuable European fauna.
We thank the team for their great work and giving us the opportunity to accompany them in the field.