Community Gets Up Close with Freshwater Turtle Nests in the Name of Conservation

News article |

Several recent community turtle survey events have given Riverland locals the opportunity to learn more about native freshwater turtle species and even play an active role in their conservation.

Hosted by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board as part of the 1 Million Turtles Community Conservation Program, the events held at Ramco and Hart Lagoons near Waikerie and Gurra Gurra near Berri provided members of the public with an opportunity to learn how to identify turtle nests and upload sightings onto a dedicated turtle conservation app.

A regular visitor to Ramco and Hart lagoons, retired teacher Karen Richardson attended 2 of the events as a way to learn more about local native turtle species, and to help their conservation by recording turtle nest sightings.

“We learnt so much information about freshwater turtles, and particularly about how to identify turtle nests. I wouldn’t have known what to look for without attending this event”.

“We didn’t find any turtles or nests at Ramco Lagoon, but we think we may have found some turtle shell fragments”.

Ms Richardson said that she would use her newfound knowledge to help record turtle and turtle nest sightings in the future.

“We learned how to record sightings on the TurtleSAT app, and I will keep an eye out during my walks and will log any evidence of turtles,” added the Waikerie local.

Community Gets Up Close with Freshwater Turtle Nests in the Name of Conservation
Karen Richardson and Penny Moon at the Hart Lagoon turtle survey event

The information gathered on TurtleSAT helps ecologists to guide future management decisions to protect and enhance turtle populations through targeted activities such as fox control.

Senior Project Officer Citizen Science Sylvia Clarke said that logging sightings of turtles and nests is one of the most effective ways the community can help in the conservation of native freshwater turtles.

“Attending one of our turtle events provides community members with some basic training about what to look for and how to use the app so you can continue to upload information after the event from any place you visit”.

“Even if you look for them but don’t find any, we encourage you to log this too. This way we know someone has been to look.”

“Perhaps the turtles haven’t nested there yet, or it isn’t a preferred nesting area. This is all really useful information.”

The River Murray is home to 3 species of native freshwater turtles – the Murray River short-necked turtle, the long-necked turtle and the broad-shelled turtle, all of which are of conservation concern.

“Research has indicated that the native turtle population has declined to a tiny fraction of its original size,” said Dr Clarke.

“This is particularly alarming when you consider the vital role turtles play as the vacuum cleaners of the river. They feed largely on carrion (dead animals) which helps to regulate water quality.”

With summer being the perfect time to look for turtle nests, several more community turtle survey events will be hosted by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board in the new year. Attendance at the events is free, but registrations are essential.

Turtle Nest Survey Barmera (School holiday special survey for families)
17 January 2024 | Lake Bonney

Turtle Nest Survey | Renmark
4 February 2024 | Pike Floodplain

This project is supported by an Australian Government Citizen Science Grant for the 1 Million Turtles Community Conservation Program, and the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the landscape levies.

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