The term ‘hibernation’ usually conjures images of grizzly bears in freezing arctic climates seeking shelter from icy temperatures. During the colder months one group of our own Parklands ‘residents’ actually goes into a state similar to hibernation too!
Australia is home to about 23 species of freshwater turtles, and NSW is home to seven species of native freshwater turtle (two of which are found nowhere else). Freshwater turtles are abundant in the Parklands’ ponds system, but are often hard to spot in the water. Most times you’ll only see a small head popping out above the water surface.
Well, sort of. Turtles are cold-blooded creatures and cannot control their own body temperature. As a result, they have developed the ability to go into a state of inactivity to cope with lower temperatures. This is actually called ‘brumation’ as opposed to ‘hibernation’, but the concept is quite similar.
During this dormant period, turtles rest on the bottom of the pond or beneath a fallen log, sometimes huddling together in groups. Their pulse rate and breathing slows down and their appetites decrease. Instead of feeding, they use the fat reserves in their body stored during summer, to provide just enough energy to keep their body functioning.
When warmer conditions return, turtles become more active again and search our ponds for aquatic insects and small fish to replenish their food stores in preparation for the busy mating season ahead. The freshwater turtle’s diet varies and includes insects, algae and weeds.
Where can I see turtles in Centennial Parklands?
The Sydney basin turtle (Emydura macquarii), and the snake-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis) are the most commonly seen of the five native species recorded in Centennial Parklands. They can sometimes be seen basking on tree branches, drain covers and the banks of the ponds.
Turtles have been spotted in Randwick, Lily, Busby’s and Kensington ponds where the vegetation offers shelter and sloping banks provide good access to the water.
Less commonly seen species are the northern snapping turtle (Elseya Dentata) and the broad-shelled turtle (Chelodina Expansa). There has also been one recorded sighting of the Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus).
You can help our turtles…
From time-to-time in Centennial Parklands you may see turtles crossing roads. Our turtles often choose this overland route to travel between different ponds, especially during warmer months.
If you see a turtle on the road – here are some essential tips:
- While we would strongly encourage park visitors not to pick up turtles they come across, if a quick ‘rescue’ is needed from the middle of a roadway, then it is always advisable to place the turtle gently down on the side of the road in the direction the turtle was heading. If you place the turtle on the wrong side of the road, he/she may decide to take the journey across the road again!
- If you come across a turtle (or any animal for that matter) in distress or injured in the Parklands, please do not approach or touch them. Your good intentions may not be read that way by the injured creature! Just call our Parklands Rangers on 0412 718 611 and let our Rangers know your location, the type of animal and what appears to be the injury or cause for concern.
- Do not go near a turtle with a dog or other domestic animal.
Learn more about freshwater turtles on the Office of Environment and Heritage website, including their breeding and life cycles, threats and how you can help in the protection of these little creatures.
Learn more about the difference between ‘hibernation’ and ‘brumation’ here.
World Turtle Day is held on 23 May every year to increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.