Turtles Hyding

WHERE have Hyde Park’s turtles gone?

With the population of oblong turtles appearing to have both aged and shrunk, Vincent city council has called in UWA researchers to study health and their numbers.

A turtle head poking above the water used to be a common sight, but sightings have been down over the past decade.

UWA researcher Blaine Hodgson says a common finding from studies in Claremont, Jualbup and Booragoon is that there are now less juveniles, either because of predators or because adults aren’t breeding as much.

• UWA masters student Blaine Hodgson and Vincent city council’s Sarah Hill trying to catch some turtles. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• UWA masters student Blaine Hodgson and Vincent city council’s Sarah Hill trying to catch some turtles. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

In Claremont and Jualbup, females stopped producing eggs following a dry summer, while in Booragoon foxes and dogs were getting hatchlings, aided and abetted by motorists squashing them.

He says outside the Perth metro area things appear to be normal, “suggesting urbanisation through long-time habitat fragmentation and isolation impact these populations negatively”.

“Turtles are slow-growing and may age with no juvenile recruitment to replace lost individuals without us noticing.

“It is therefore critical to continuously monitor populations to determine early signs of population decline.”

From now until March the team will capture, weigh, measure and microchip Hyde Park turtles, and ultrascan females to see if they have eggs. “Cathedral trap” cages are flexible to let the turtles breathe.

It’s unlikely that red-eared sliders, an aggressive foreign species that took up residence 10 years ago, has resulted in the oblong decline.

by DAVID BELL

Mike O'Hanlon 10x7

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