Relocating every turtle from four large dams is no easy task, but at Ginninderry, no turtle is being left behind.
A series of dams in the future suburb of Macnamara has been the focus of a program that recognises the importance of protecting Eastern Longneck Turtles in the region.
Ginninderry Conservation Trust rehabilitation and reporting officer Rachel Eland said the relocation of turtle species isn’t mandatory, and far too often the fragile homes of this delicate species are disrupted without consideration.
She says this is all part of the environmental and community-focused mindset at Ginninderry and will significantly impact the longevity of this turtle.
“Developers don’t generally do this. It’s not a rule that they have to check the dams for turtles, and you’d be horrified to know how many dams are backfilled without even giving it a second thought,” Rachel said.
“But I think this will now start creating change where it’s written into the requirements of a development, if you’re going de-water a rural dam or any waterway or system, it needs to be checked for life before it gets backfilled. It’s also an opportunity to educate the community so they can understand the importance of protecting the population.”
Rachel and her mighty team of three have spent hours wading through thick mud in freezing conditions to ensure every turtle has a chance to start a new life in a neighbouring corridor habitat.
While she feels confident that every turtle has been saved, her close relationship with the Huon Contractors team means that turtles that may have slipped through the cracks still have a chance for relocation. Huon are the civil contractors undertaking the civil works for the subdivision.
“We have a good relationship with Huon, and they let us know if they’ve seen any after we’ve done our removal. In some cases, they actually remove the turtles themselves.”
While this Ginninderry-based project has sparked meaningful discussion and saved countless turtles, the data collected paints a concerning future for the species.
Rachel said the high volume of older turtles compared to juveniles suggests the population is on a steady decline. Thanks to projects like this and the involvement of the Ginninderry community, this muddy future for these turtles might be a little clearer.
“Waterwatch already do a total watch program, and that’s happening all across Canberra,” she said.
“They go out and check the nest, put grading over the top of them, so nothing can dig it out, and then come and make sure that they’re hatched and put into the water. It’s a fantastic program.
“We will also start implementing that in some of our own dams around here, so we can see a good continuation of the population of Eastern Longnecks.”
The relocation project is made possible thanks to the cooperation of the Ginninderry Conservation Trust, Riverview Developments, Ginninderra Waterwatch and Huon Contractors.