City partnering to save turtles

19 October 2022

The City of Stirling is partnering with Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute to help conserve declining southwestern snake-necked turtle populations, with researchers and the community to play a major role.

The Saving Our Snake Necked Turtle (SOSNT) project has received $131,000 of Lotterywest funding to support the roll out of a comprehensive ‘citizen science’ engagement and education program by local governments and community groups. By teaching community members, these ‘citizen scientists’ will be able to participate in important research about the turtle populations and their predators.

The project has been timed to coincide with the spring/summer period (peaking between September and November) when turtles usually travel away from wetlands in search of a nesting site and become more vulnerable to accidents and predators.

Research by Murdoch University researcher Anthony Santoro found there were practically no juvenile southwestern snake-necked turtles across 35 metropolitan wetlands, due to a combination of predation by introduced species, mortality from road strikes, and a lack of suitable nesting habitat.

Mayor Mark Irwin said the City’s participation in the project aimed to upskill the community to track turtles and conduct important population and predation tracking surveys across Perth and regional WA.

“When the City of Stirling asked the community what was important to them as part of our long term planning, this led us to create a new vision for the City to become a sustainable City with a local focus,” he said.

“When we talk about environmental sustainability, we are talking about actions that ensure that we are not only an energy-smart, water-wise and waste-wise City, but also a biodiverse City.

“Supporting biodiversity in our natural and urban environment means looking after connected and healthy ecosystems, as well as conserving, protecting and enhancing these areas to ensure they exist for future generations. We have also committed to directly providing habitat for wildlife, and to working with our community to increase our biodiversity and create a thriving and resilient urban ecology.

“Thank you to Murdoch University for inviting the City of Stirling to partner in this project, and I look forward to the good outcomes and data we will collect to ultimately enhance our native wildlife.”

A recent information session was held with members of the local community, and the public is encouraged to contribute to this project by downloading the Turtle Sat app to record turtle sightings and nesting sites.

The project will involve volunteer training in October, with the field research component occurring between October and December 2022.

Background on partners
The SOSNT project proponent and manager of the Lotterywest funds is the South West Corridor Development Foundation Inc. (SWCDeF), under the auspices of the South West Group (local government members from Melville to Rockingham).

The project work will be undertaken by turtle ecologists from the Harry Butler Institute and NatureLink Perth at Murdoch University, as well as partners 1 Million Turtles, Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), WA Wildlife Inc., City of Cockburn, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the 14 participating local governments.

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