Aussie turtle species face major roadkill threat

SYDNEY, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Native Australian turtles are ending up as roadkill during their November nesting season, with their severely declining numbers having significant impact on the ecosystem, local media reported Saturday.

The eastern long-necked and Murray short-necked turtles, major species considered under threat, leave the waterways at yearend to nest and often become road fatalities, the ABC news channel reported.

“For the short-necked and the long-necked turtle, we’ve seen a population decline of 69 to 91 percent,” South Australian wetland project officer Courtney Monk was quoted as saying.

The low turtle populations were concerning because they played a crucial role in the ecosystem by keeping the wetlands and rivers clean, she said.

Wildlife conservation group Turtles Australia’s president Graham Stockfeld told the channel the impact of roadkill on the animals was significant.

“If a female turtle gets killed on the road that might be 30 or 40 years’ worth of eggs that have been lost,” he said.

Their research work found that fox predators raiding turtle nests were also a considerable threat, he added.

“We’ve basically got, over the last two years, nearly 7,000 sightings and most of this sighting, about 90 percent, are from roadkill or dug up turtle nests from foxes,” said Western Sydney University ecologist Ricky Spencer about findings from a local research project on turtle sightings.

It was difficult to reduce turtle road fatalities, but people needed to be made more aware of wildlife behavior, said Monk.

“I think people don’t know a lot about turtles. If you see a kangaroo on the road you know to slow down, but if you see a turtle by the side of the road you might not realize that it is possibly about to cross the road,” she said.

Road signs could also be put up to alert motorists of turtles in high-risk areas during their nesting periods, Monk added.

“We are actually getting to the point where in some areas like in South Australia we are seeing localized extinction, and we need to do something about it fast,” said Spencer.

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