Slow down for Turtles
Wingecarribee’s turtles are in danger. They are in urgent need of greater protection. Though some of our turtle communities are in relatively safe places, others are in perilous positions.
At Lake Alexandra in Mittagong, turtles are a relatively common sight. Animals from that seemingly healthy little colony are regularly seen basking on logs protruding from the lake. As reptiles, turtles are sun dependent. They need logs and rocks for basking to provide themselves with a life-sustaining energy source. Without the warmth gained from basking, they cannot move, feed or create eggs.
Over years, turtles have often been seen in and around the high traffic zone of the Eridge Park Rd/Moss Vale Road junction. Recently, in a bid to highlight the problem, a driver stopped to photograph a turtle killed by car strike as it attempted to cross Moss Vale road from west to east. Perhaps, in this sun deficient spring and in an absence of safe and accommodating habitat, the tragic turtle in the photo was heading onto the black bitumen to try to warm up.
The Eridge Park Road/Moss vale Road junction is a dangerous place for animals and pedestrians. But right at that junction there is a section of parkland.
SHAPS, the Southern Highlands branch of the Australian Plants Society, have their eye on the magnificent remnant specimen of local endangered native tree, Eucalyptus mararthurii, which stands in that piece of undeveloped parkland. (Let’s call it Eridge Park, since there seems to be no other park in evidence to claim the name). For two years, SHAPS members have been trying to progress their (professionally drawn) plan to enrich the planting around that old warrior tree and enhance its chances of life by giving it a community. Could a turtle hotspot become part of this plan and, into the bargain, push the park planting along towards becoming a reality?
What can we do to improve safety for the Eridge Park turtles which have had their homeland dissected by a very busy roadway. Despite the odds, turtles are obviously surviving (as well as dying) in that area. They are not very demanding creatures. Unlike kangaroos, wombats, koalas and others, they cannot leap over or burrow under a fence and they cannot put on a turn of speed. If we can make a tunnel under a harbour, how hard can it be to make a tunnel under a two lane road? But perhaps that is a bridge too far.
(Yes! How about some wildlife bridges/overpasses for Wingecarribee?! But that’s another story.)
Do any of the many drains in the Eridge Park area actually pass under the road and if so, could one be adapted to serve as a turtle underpass?
Could we at least make a start on the SHAPS plan by scooping out and planting up the stormwater swale drains to privilege turtles? And could private landholders on either side of the road perhaps be persuaded to join in the rescue effort by creating turtle friendly zones in their swampy roadside patches and installing rocks and logs for turtle basking.
Can we, at the very least, declare a ‘Slow Down for Turtles’ zone to encourage motorists to take part in improving the chances of these marvellous, ancient residents of Wingecarribee Shire?
After all, they are only trying to go back to where they came from.
By Sarah Cains