It’s turtle time

• UWA researchers Roberta Bencini, Calum Woods and Krystofer Lam, with Vincent mayor Emma Cole (second from left) looking for baby turtles. Photo by Steve Grant.

THE hunt is on for baby turtles whose numbers seem to be dwindling in Hyde Park lakes.

In 2015 Vincent funded a UWA-led study into the oblong turtles, because for years people were noticing a decline in hatchlings and juveniles.

There’s about 300 oblong turtles in the park, but few youngsters coming up to replace the old-timers; so when the existing population dies of old age the colony could just collapse.

This research phase will try to establish why there are not enough turtle youths.

Earlier this week, researchers Roberta Bencini, Calum Woods and Krystofer Lam were out trapping turtles and measuring them to determine age. They were also ultrasounding females to see if they had eggs.

Vincent mayor Emma Cole said “we’d like to do whatever we can to help the turtles thrive, breed and live long and healthy lives in the park”.

“We know that the turtles are breeding, but the hatchlings don’t appear to be surviving and that is extremely concerning.”

There are a few reasons the bubs might not be making it into adulthood.

Early hypothesis were that they could be being eaten as eggs, or as hatchlings, or maybe the grown ups just weren’t reproducing. Sometimes turtle numbers drop when there is a sex imbalance (at some urban lakes there are many more male turtles than females, because females sometimes venture out of the lake and cross roads to make new nests and get run over).

Trapping sessions

But at Hyde Park they mostly just go back and forth between the two lakes, so there’s a pretty even mix. And the turtles appear to be fertile.

Dr Bencini, who’s overseeing the study, said a parkgoer had recently witnessed a baby turtle crawling out in the open. A kookaburra swooped down and ate it (Dr Bencini says if you do see something similar and you save a turtle, you wouldn’t be done on any kind of charge of interfering with wildlife. The kookaburra is an introduced species to these parts anyhow).

Trapping sessions will run through spring and summer.

If you see a turtle out of water, Dr Bencini asks that you carefully observe it and see where it goes in case it’ll lead them to a nest. Then call her office on 6488 2521 or the council on 9273 6000.

by DAVID BELL and STEVE GRANT

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