Biological invasions are a key component of human-induced global change. The continuing increase in global wildlife trade has raised concerns about the parallel increase in the number of new invasive species. However, the factors that link the wildlife trade to the biological invasion process are still poorly understood. Moreover, there are analytical challenges in researching the role of global wildlife trade in biological invasions, particularly issues related to the under-reporting of introduced and established populations in areas with reduced sampling effort. In this work, we use high-quality data on the international trade in Nearctic turtles (1999-2009) coupled with a statistical modelling framework, which explicitly accounts for detection, to investigate the factors that influence the introduction (release, or escape into the wild) of globally traded Nearctic turtles and the establishment success (self-sustaining exotic populations) of slider turtles (Trachemys scripta), the most frequently traded turtle species. We found that the introduction of a species was influenced by the total number of turtles exported to a jurisdiction and the age at maturity of the species, while the establishment success of slider turtles was best associated with the propagule number (number of release events), and the number of native turtles in the jurisdiction of introduction. These results indicate both a direct and indirect association between the wildlife trade and the introduction of turtles and establishment success of slider turtles, respectively. Our results highlight the existence of gaps in the number of globally recorded introduction events and established populations of slider turtles, although the expected bias is low. We emphasize the importance of researching independently the factors that affect the different stages of the invasion pathway. Critically, we observe that the number of traded individuals might not always be an adequate proxy for propagule pressure and establishment success.