Reptile invaders

Three species of foreign reptiles have arrived in Queensland through human intervention:

  • Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)
  • Red-eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans)
  • Flowerpot Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus). 

All have established breeding populations in Queensland and potentially pose a threat to native fauna and the health of our ecosystems. The gecko and turtle are currently the focus of research projects at the Queensland Museum.

Asian House Gecko

Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) The Asian House Gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus, a common sight in many Queensland coastal towns.
Photograph by Steve Wilson.
Asian House Gecko eggs. Asian House Gecko eggs.
Photograph by Steve Wilson.
Asian House Geckos are now well known to people living in Queensland’s coastal towns. Our views on these animals are mixed; some welcome them, others find them noisy and messy. They also have the annoying habit of setting off our security alarms and short-circuiting our air conditioning units. 

These geckos originate from Asia and the Indo-Pacific Region and arrived in Australia as stowaways in shipping cargo.  They are formidable colonisers that, once introduced, quickly establish themselves in urban environments. Asian House Geckos were first recorded in Darwin (Northern Territory) in 1964 but the species may have been present in Australia before this time. 

They arrived in Brisbane some time in the early 1980s and were, at first, confined to waterfront areas.  In the last decade they have expanded throughout the greater Brisbane area and are now the dominant house gecko, betraying their presence with a characteristic chuck-chuck-chuck call. 

Asian House Geckos are pale pinkish-brown to dark grey with a mottled pattern and obtain a total length of around 11 cm. They have a series of small spines or tubercules that run down the lower back and tail which readily distinguish them from any native gecko species. This species lays two eggs per clutch every 4 to 6 weeks. Guide to identifying Asian House Geckos.

There is concern that Asian House Geckos out-compete native gecko species and there is anecdotal evidence that they have displaced native geckos from the 'house-gecko' niche. While this species appears to be confined to areas in and around human habitation in south-eastern Queensland, it has been recorded from bushland settings in the Northern Territory. Additionally, Asian House Geckos have brought foreign mites to Australia which could act as vectors, spreading novel diseases to native reptiles.

Queensland Museum herpetologists are currently examining the reproductive biology of this species in south-eastern Queensland.

You can help our scientists determine the distribution of Asian House Geckos by spending a few minutes filling out our Gecko survey.

Red-eared Slider Turtle

Adult Red-eared Slider. Adult Red-eared Slider.

These turtles arrived in Australia through the pet trade in the 1960s and 1970s and established wild populations through escapees and deliberate releases.  A well-established breeding population was discovered in early 2004 at Mango Hill, in the Pine Rivers area north of Brisbane.

An eradication program has resulted in the capture and removal of many slider turtles from the wild.  However, the species is still present in some southeast Queensland waterways and captive specimens are still occasionally surrendered to authorities.

Red-eared Slider Turtles originate from the Mississippi drainage in North America and take their common name from a distinctive red stripe behind the eye.  Adults grow to around 30 cm in length and hatchlings begin life at the size of a 50 cent piece.  The head is marked with numerous fine pale stripes.  The shell is green to brown above with pale streaks and dark smudges.  Unlike our native turtles, slider turtles pull their heads directly back into the shell (all native turtles fold their necks to the side, under the protective edge of the shell).

The Red-eared Slider Turtle has been nominated by the World Conservation Union as one of the 100 worst invasive pests.  It is a major threat to freshwater ecosystems in areas where it has been released.  It is a prolific breeder and has the potential to displace native animals by competing for food and space and destroying aquatic vegetation.

It is an offense to keep or sell these animals without a permit and fines of up to $60,000 apply.  If you find a slider turtle you should contact the Pest Management and Environmental Officer at your local council as soon as possible.

Herpetologists at the Queensland Museum are members of the Red-Eared Slider Taskforce, a multi-agency committee whose role is to investigate control strategies for this species.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.