Turtle TalkTracking Turtle Movements

Felicity Bairstow shares insights about our South Western Snake-Necked Turtles


Turtle conservation can be a slow and unglamourous job, but the rewards are wonderful and soul nourishing.

We are now at the end of the Kambarang/Spring nesting season when we have been super vigilant watching and protecting our female southwestern snake-necked turtles as they venture out from the cover of safety of wetlands to find nesting grounds and lay their eggs.

A second round of nesting activity can occur during the summer months and we will be ready to alert you if this occurs. Yet another movement of turtles can occur when a wetland dries out—as one of the strategies to get through these times is to move to a nearby wet wetland to hang out until the rains and then return back to their “home” wetland.

There is also a reference to migration of male turtles between wetlands, presumably as one of those clever evolutionary moves to mix up the gene pool and maintain a healthy population. Finally, from May to August the hatchlings will be making their way back to the wetlands in another set of movements.


A long neck turtle walking through the wetlands
Image by Denise Crosbie

And now for the reward part!

I was driving to The Wetlands Centre and swung into Hope Road and quickly realised a turtle was trundling across the road ahead of me. Brakes and hazard lights on, a quick safety check—all good, but she still had to make it across in front of the oncoming traffic.

Then with frantic hand-signalling out my window, (we always emphasise personal safety during turtle protection so I had to restrain myself) thankfully the first car stopped and the cars behind followed suit giving our turtle the time to cross in safety. Our turtle completed her journey and slipped gratefully into the nearby wetland. Mission complete.

The Turtle Trackers follow the females out to their nesting sites, supervise the nesting from a discrete distance (this can involve deterring inquisitive ravens and the like), and then cover the nests with mesh squares and pinning them into place. The females are then escorted back to the safety of the water.

Often a low-pressure system— that is overcast, rainy weather—can act as a trigger for the female turtles to move en masse. So, this adds another dimension of excitement to the Turtle Tracking!


Three conservation outcomes were achieved in those few minutes:

  • A near endangered turtle had safely completed nesting and returned to her wetland
  • The occupants of the first car that stopped were ecstatic of having been part of the experience and actually seeing a turtle in nature. I thanked them profusely and mentally logged them in as a family of future turtle protectors
  • The wetland that the tired turtle slipped into was only there still because of over 30 years of community advocacy to protect it. All that work is worthwhile.
    **Cue warm fuzzy feelings…** 😊

Keep watching this space for more about our utterly adorable turtles!


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