After invasive Chinese turtles were found in in Quincy, the local authorities are raising awareness towards the dangers of releasing animals into improper environments.
The people who say the odd looking turtle on Wollaston Beach reported it to the authorities because it was an animal that they had not seen before. The New England Aquarium sent representatives on site, who collected the turtle so that it could be properly identified.
Dr. Charlie Innis is the head veterinarian at the New England Aquarium and he identified the mysterious sea turtle as a Chinese softshell turtle, Pelodiscus sinensis, which is quite an unexpected apparition on an American beach.
He said that these turtles are grown in Asian countries on farms and eaten. Furthermore, the turtles can be found online for purchase, either as food or unique pets. He believes that this is actually how the Chinese softshell turtle made its way all the way to America.
Whether the animal was purchased to be eaten and the person eventually decided not to do that and release the turtle, in what appeared to be a compassionate gesture, or whether the animal was purchase as a pet and the owners decided to abandon them after realizing the experience was not quite what they expected, the result remains the same.
Releasing a species in an entirely new environment can prove to have devastating consequences, because the animal might carry diseases that flora and fauna of the environment are naive to, or because the animal might prove disrupt the balance of the local ecosystem.
This is actually the case of the Chinese softshell turtle, that is quite the fierce predator. Dr. Innis explained that it feeds on impressive quantities of small fish, insects and mussels, and that it is particularly resistant to the harsh conditions in winter.
Therefore, the odd looking turtle could thrive in Wollaston Beach, at cost of many other species that might not be able to compete with it for food or that could end up being its prey.
This is why Dr. Innis wanted people to know that while they might have the best possible intentions when choosing to release an animal in the wild, the entire process could prove quite dangerous when a non-native species is released into the environment.
“Beyond the potential impacts of an invasive species, most non-native species often die quickly as they do not have the adaptations to survive in unfamiliar environments.” said Dr. Innis.
It remains to be seen if other Chinese softshell turtles will appear in the Wallaston Beach area, but hopefully, this will remains an isolated event.
Image Source: bostonherald