Public awareness of risks and recent marketing dynamics of Pond sliders (Trachemys scripta, Schoepff, 1792) in NE Bulgaria.
Commercial trade in Pond sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta and T. s. elegans) is the most important factor responsible for their wide distribution in ecosystems where they are non-native. Pond sliders have been very popular pets in Bulgaria since 1990 and can be still obtained commercially for several Euros from pet shops or via the Internet. There is a tendency for these turtles to be kept until maturity and then released into the wild. In the present study we used questionnaires to investigate awareness among the people in NE Bulgaria of the dangers related to housing Pond sliders as pets and the environmental risks presented by releasing them into the wild. Additionally, we studied patterns in the trading of Pond sliders in Bulgaria and the prevalence of these non-native turtles in the water catchments of NE Bulgaria. Our data revealed a very low level of awareness and competence among the respondents concerning the biology and the status of the Pond sliders. We also provide data on an unrestrained trade in Pond sliders and identify 15 new localities where Pond sliders were detected in the wild of NE Bulgaria.