Waikato Regional Council is having to set up turtle traps as ponds at a Coromandel beach have became inundated with the animals.
Biosecurity Officer Andrew McConnell said the red-eared slider turtles, which can live for up to 30 years, were often bought as pets.
Pet turtles were allowed for sale in New Zealand because it was thought the climate was too cold for their eggs to incubate and hatch. However, turtle eggs and hatchlings have been sighted at Cook’s Beach.
“Where you see or have heard red eared sliders reside tend to be attractive dumping spots, hence the growing problem at Cooks Beach,” McConnell said.
They grow quickly to the size of a dinner plate and “their cuteness and easy-care factor ends pretty quickly”, leading people to dump them in the wild, he said.
McConnell said people who see the floating traps made of pipes around a basket should not go near them.
“The more undisturbed it is, the more likely we’ll catch turtles. The turtles need to become accustomed to it.”
The platform has ramps so turtles can get up on it. Catching a turtle will then depend on which way it slides back into the water.
Concerned residents are helping the regional council to check the trap on a regular basis.
“With a little luck and the help of locals, we should be able to catch these turtles and nip the problem in the bud,” McConnell said
Turtle rescuers in New Zealand have said they were willing to rehome any caught.
The regional council is asking the public to report any other red eared slider turtle sightings to McConnell on 0800 800 401.