HOW did the turtle cross the Road? Community Asked to Assist to Help Protect Reptilian Friends
As spring turtle nesting season begins, the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board is asking drivers to play a crucial role in helping to protect the region’s vulnerable freshwater turtles.
Turtle fatalities as a result of traffic accidents are a significant contributor to the steep decline in freshwater turtle numbers in the Murraylands and Riverland. Turtles struck by vehicles are often females seeking a place to nest, reducing the number of juvenile turtles in the population.
Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Project Officer Sylvia Clarke said that drivers should be on the lookout for turtles on the road this spring.
“Turtles tend to come out during and after large rainfall events and storms in late October and November, and often at night. They can be hard to see on dark wet roads if you’re not keeping an eye out for them”.
“Drivers and passengers can play a really valuable role in protecting the future of freshwater turtles by keeping an eye out for turtles on roads, and by helping them to get to the other side of the road safely,” she added.
“If you find a turtle crossing the road and you can safely stop, carefully move the turtle to the side of the road that it was travelling towards”.
“If you can, use clean disposable gloves, or use hand sanitiser before and after moving the turtle. This protects both you and the turtle from any germs”.
Dr Clarke said that roads along hills were a particular hotspot for turtle crossings and encouraged drivers to drive slowly to avoid running turtles over.
“You’ll often find turtles crossing hilly roads as they come out of dams and creeks to find nesting spots. Roads close to rivers and wetlands are also popular crossing routes in the Riverland”.
“Helping turtles to safely cross the roads is one of the most significant ways we can help to protect turtles and improve their future chances of survival”.
“You might think you’re helping just one turtle to survive but if she is female, you could also be protecting a clutch of eggs and future generations of turtles”.
Community members who come across injured turtles are encouraged to take them to the nearest veterinary clinic for medical attention.
Freshwater Turtles Numbers in Decline
Nationally, the number of freshwater turtles has declined significantly in the last century from the effects of changes to their river and wetland habitats, predation and road traffic accidents. The trend is similar in South Australia where it is estimated that the native turtle population has declined to potentially less than 10% of its original size.
The Murraylands and Riverland region is home to all 3 South Australian native turtle species – the Murray River short-necked turtle, the long-necked turtle and the broad-shelled turtle, all of which are of conservation concern.
Dr Clarke said that community participation in turtle conservation is the most significant factor in reversing the current trend, and Turtle Month in November is a great time to get involved.
“Along with being careful on the roads at this time of year, community members can play a hugely valuable role in helping the future of turtles by recording these turtle sightings on the TurtleSAT app, and they can even help protect turtle nests from predators”.
More information about ways to get involved in turtle conservation can be found at 1millionturtles.com
Get involved and help us protect the turtles
Join one of our upcoming turtle nest surveys and help us gather information about nesting locations. Identifying nesting hotspots helps us to determine the best conservation measures to get more young turtles back into our waterways.
- Ramco Lagoon| Wednesday 29 November
- Hart Lagoon | Thursday 30 November
- Gurra Gurra near Berri | Wednesday 6 December
- Lake Bonney, Barmera | Wednesday 17 January
- Pike Floodplain near Renmark | Sunday 28 January
This project is supported by an Australian Government Citizen Science Grant, and the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the landscape levies.
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