Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Public perception on non-native species: based on the news articles about the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii).

Abstract

As the world becomes more globalized, the non-native species issue has emerged as a problem that is growing internationally. In particular, the number of non-native turtles found in the wild has been increasing sharply in South Korea. At least 15 species of non-native turtles, including the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) first imported in the 1970s, have been found in Korea. On October 15, 2019, an alligator snapping turtle (AST, Macrochelys temminckii) was found in a stream located in Gwangju city, South Korea. The discovery of AST became a big issue in South Korea as the animal is known for its large body size and aggressiveness and was featured widely in the mass media. In this study, to learn the public's perception of non-native species, we examined comments (opinions) to the online news articles about the AST. We collected 1,100 comments from the Internet news articles on the AST. Out of the 1,100 comments, 342 (31.1%) comments were related to non-native species' issues. Most of the respondents (97.7%, n=334) stated that the non-native species are a problem. Forty two comments mentioned potential threats posed by non-native species: non-native species' aggressive nature (n=11, 26.2%) and ecological disturbance (n=31, 73.8%). Lack of responsibility (n=122, 51.7%) was the major causative factor for the introduction of non-native species, and followed by indiscriminate pet trade (n=99, 42.0%), absence of relevant legislation (n=13, 5.5%), and absence of treatment (n=2, 0.8%). Animal registration (n=59, 45.7%) was the most commonly mentioned as the way to deal with the issue of the non-native species' invasion. Our results show that the public is aware of the seriousness of the invasion of non-native species, including AST. This study highlights that researchers and government officials need to consider the public's perception and opinions. We believe that our study can serve as an essential reference for the policy direction and the management of non-native species.