Australia is home to more than 20 species of freshwater turtles, which commonly live in and around rivers, lakes, swamps and ponds, including farm dams.
In South Australia, there are 3 species of freshwater turtles:
- Murray short-necked turtle - Emydura macquarii
- Eastern long-necked turtle - Chelodina longicollis
- Broad-shelled turtle - Chelodina expansa
Why are turtles important?
Turtles play a key role in our freshwater systems. One particular function they perform is keeping waterways clean and cycling nutrients in freshwater ecosystems. Turtle scavenging removes fish carcasses from the water up to five times faster than natural decomposition, helping to keep our rivers clean. Unfortunately, due to adverse changes within their habitat and predation of turtles and nests, freshwater turtle numbers are in serious decline.
What is being done to help?
The Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board plays a key role in the preservation of turtle habitat through the management of the region’s wetlands. The simulation of natural wetting and drying activities helps to keep ecosystems functioning sustainably, creating optimal food and habitat for many native species including freshwater turtles. Improving food security is thought to improve the reproductive rates of turtles by providing females with the energy required to produce and lay eggs.
The landscape board is also a key partner in 1 Million Turtles, a citizen science project led by La Trobe University, with funding from the Australian Government. This community and scientist-led conservation program aims to return an extra 1 million hatchling turtles to the waterways of Australia each year. The project also engages local communities by encouraging members of the public to share sightings of turtles and nests through the TurtleSAT app. This information is used to identify hotspots of both turtle nesting and invasive predator impacts on turtle nests for further conservation work.
What you can do?
- Get involved in Turtle Month. As the peak nesting time for many turtle species, November is a good time to spot turtles and nests.
- Record turtle sightings and nesting locations using TurtleSAT. These records will help us understand where turtles are, and where and when they are nesting. You can use TurtleSAT throughout the year, including during Turtle Month.
- If you find a turtle on the road, move them to a nearby safe place in the direction they were travelling. Saving just one from being killed can have a big impact on future turtle numbers.
- Keep our water ways healthy by implementing environmentally friendly practices at home.
- Leave snags in the water. Snags provide habitat and shelter for turtles and fish. They are especially important for broad-shelled turtles.
- Protect nests from predators.
- Use turtle-safe fish traps. Funnel traps should be avoided as turtles can’t escape from these and will often drown.
- Creating your own turtle island – find out more information here.
- Keep up to date with the latest news, information and events with our Citizen Science e-newsletter.
Volunteer with Us!
Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board hosts several opportunities annually for members of the public to be involved in turtle conservation including monitoring activities. Register your interest via email to Sylvia Clarke at Sylvia.email@example.com.