Blue Mountains News

Turtle sunbathing island launched at The Gully for turtle nesting season

By Blue Mountains City Council
Archived 14 Feb 2024 - Posted: 15 Dec 2023
A turtle basking in the sun on the new basking island at The Gully, Katoomba.
As our freshwater turtles begin their nesting season, a turtle basking island has been created at The Gully, Katoomba, designed to give the ancient reptiles a safe place to bask in the sun and warm up – a vital part of their day-to-day survival.

The basking island was created in a partnership between Blue Mountains City Council’s Environmental Healthy Waterways Team, Bushcare and the Gully Traditional Owners.

Turtles are cold-blooded, they get their body heat from their environment. In cold climates such as Katoomba, turtles need to bask in the sun to absorb the heat. Especially in nesting season (November to January), females are looking for a warm basking spot on the water’s edge.

The person-made lake at The Gully doesn’t naturally offer a safe place for turtles to bask, leaving them to float at the surface to warm themselves. This process is inefficient for the turtle and being constantly wet puts them at greater risk of diseases such as shell rot.

The basking island, a trial at this stage, is based on a design by Western Sydney University citizen science project – TurtleSAT. 

Blue Mountains City Council Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said the basking island trial is another positive step in protecting our turtles.

“This project adds to the incredible work of Uncle David King and The Gully Traditional Owners in rehabilitating The Gully. Thanks to their efforts, and projects such as this, The Gully has become a safe haven for turtles and many native species,” Mayor Greenhill said.

The island was built and installed by Yolanda Pavincich from Bushcare and William Goodwin of Council’s Environmental, Healthy Waterways Team.

Mr Goodwin said the island serves a dual process.

“The island is not just a basking platform; it is also a citizen-powered research tool. The island brings the turtles into a place where we can easily see them (with the help of binoculars or a zoom lens), which means that anyone can log their sightings with the TurtleSAT app,and help create meaningful data on our local turtles.”

Here are some easy ways you can help our local turtle populations:

  • Help turtles cross the road. If you see a turtle on or near the road, take note of which direction it’s facing, pull over safely, pick it up and put it down on the other side. By saving it you’ve potentially bought it decades of desperately needed breeding time. Don’t try and move them back to where they came from, or they will just start their journey again. Also, don’t take them to a waterbody you think they’ll like, turtles roam for a number of reasons and we can’t predict what they’re after.
  • Contribute to turtle science. Upload every turtle or nest sighting to TurtleSAT app. The data from this project has already been incredibly valuable in helping us understand what turtles need. here for more info.
  • Go on nest patrol. Go for a walk around dams, lakes or lagoons on rainy days during nesting season. If you see a nesting turtle, take photos and put them on TurteSAT.
  • Protect nests. All it takes is 20 minutes of online training and some supplies from the hardware store, and you’re qualified and equipped to save turtle nests. Complete the training at here. Once the training is complete, receive the materials for nest protection free of charge by emailing here  (numbers are limited).
  • Call for help. If you come across an injured turtle, or one that might have lost its habitat (e.g. due to large developments nearby), contact Turtle Rescues NSW on 0404 463 446 or WIRES on 1300 094 737.

 

 

 
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