With the exception of the Pig-nosed Turtle (Family Carettochelydidae), Australian native freshwater turtles are all members of the family Chelidae. These turtles have webbed feet and relatively flattened shells covered by tough horny scutes (scales).
Sometimes referred to as a ‘tortoise’, the terms ‘freshwater turtle’ or ‘terrapin’ are now more widely used, distinguishing it from relatives; the marine turtle and the dome-shelled, wholly terrestrial true tortoises of other countries.
Turtle, terrapin or tortoise?
There are many lifestyle differences between turtles and tortoises. At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, we display freshwater turtles (also known as terrapins).
Did you know? Some freshwater turtles, like the Mary River Turtle, can breathe underwater using special air sacs near their bottoms.
Most freshwater turtles eat both plants and meat, but some species are entirely herbivorous or entirely carnivorous. Freshwater turtles take advantage of the potential food sources around them and are not fussy about their meals. Depending on the species, turtles feed
on a mixture of invertebrates, crustaceans, fish, tadpoles and aquatic plants.
Nature’s little helpers
Seed dispersal and vegetation management, control of insect and snail populations and keeping water clean by scavenging dead animals are just a few of the things turtles do to help their ecosystems.
Mary River Turtles
The Mary River turtle is found only in one river system; the Mary River. They are classified as an endangered species, and so the birth of these turtles is very exciting for our sanctuary. Mary River turtles nest along the sandy banks of the river, for which most part runs through privately owned cattle properties. This poses as a threat to the turtles, as when cattle go down to drink, they can very easily tread on the eggs buried under the sand banks. The wild population also took a sharp decline when large numbers were removed from the wild and sold in the pet trade as ‘penny turtles’. They are also threatened by feral cats and foxes, as the eggs and babies can be seen as a food source. A decline in water quality, and therefore food quality, is another threat to this species, which is why we aim to educate the local community about the importance of how to look after our waterways, as well as methods of minimising pollution and contamination.
Lone Pine recently became home to three juvenile Mary River Turtles, born mid February 2014. These little guys are a huge excitement for our reptile team, and feel proud to have successfuly bred an endangered species. Once grown, these turtles will be used within our education programs, to help teach children of all ages the importance of protecting our environment and wildlife, especially those that are threatened or endangered.