Bonn Turtles are among the more exotic inhabitants of the Rheinaue, along with Nutrias. The animals were probably abandoned there. After the winter, the first specimens are now enjoying the first warmer sunrays.
The spring-like weather at the beginning of the week not only attracted sun-loving walkers to the banks of the Rhine, but rarely seen inhabitants from the animal kingdom also left their hiding places. It is common knowledge that the Rheinaue is a paradise for various animal species. The fact that besides nutrias, turtles also populate the Rhine bank seemed new to the passers-by.
A crowd of people quickly formed around the sunbathing animal with its head held high. "These are not native species," says Christian Chmela, head of the Biological Station for Bonn and the Rhine-Erft district. The turtle is presumably a so-called yellow-bellied slider turtle, which was released at the waters.
Originally, the turtle species came from North America, says Chmela. Meanwhile it is one of the most common water turtles. It can be recognised by the yellow spots on its skin. And it also has a considerable life expectancy: the animals live for over half a century. "Actually, these animals are not suitable as pets if you want to keep them here," clarifies the head of the biological station based in Dransdorf.
The life expectancy alone is so high that even descendants of the owners still have to look after the turtle. There is a lack of awareness of the fact that "the cute little ones", who are initially up to seven centimetres tall, can grow to over 30 centimetres. "They are just big," summarizes Chmela. Before buying, potential owners should "think carefully about what such animals need." For example, a large garden pond is advantageous.
If the purchase has already been made, but the animal can no longer be cared for, an advertisement on common online portals or contacting the local animal shelter are possibilities to pass on the turtle to other interested parties. "They don't really belong in the open landscape," emphasises the head of the biological station.
But they do not represent a danger for other animal species. The European pond terrapin is extinct in the region anyway, so so-called possible displacement effects do not occur. The population of the turtles does not actively support the Biological Station as a nature conservation association, says Chmela: "The animals that have been released into the wild have to manage on their own, but as a rule they manage to do so“.
It is not yet clear whether the yellow-bellied slider turtle has already become native to the Rheinaue and is reproducing. But what is clear is that the animals are big fans of sunlight. With their heads held high, the turtles sit on stones and do not move a millimetre for minutes. Christian Chmela confirms that the impression is correct: "They literally tank up on sunshine."
Original text: Luca Samlidis
Translation: Mareike Graepel