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Eastern snake-necked turtles, also known as eastern long-necked turtles, are reptiles that have a hard shell, or carapace, covering their body. The shell grows up to 25 cm long and they have a long neck that is usually about half the length of their shell. The colour of their shell varies through different shades of cream, brown and black, and the scales on their heads, neck, legs and feet are a brown-grey colour. They have webbed feet for swimming and sharp claws. The head and neck of the eastern snake-necked turtle bend sideways into its shell rather than directly back.
The scientific name of the eastern snake-necked turtle is Chelodina longicollis.
Kutukulung is the Dharug name for the eastern snake-necked turtle.
Eastern snake-necked turtles are found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They live in freshwater environments such as wetlands, dams, rivers and lakes. Most of their time is spent in the water, however they can move over land to find nesting areas, lay eggs or in search of a new water hole. They will also come up to the surface of the water at the bank, or sit on a log or rock to bask in the sun.
Eastern snake-necked turtles are carnivorous and eat aquatic invertebrates, tadpoles and fish.
Eastern snake-necked turtles have hard shells covering their body, when threatened by a predator the eastern snake-necked turtle will bend its head and neck into its shell and release a pungent odour to repel them.
These freshwater turtles also have webbed feet to help them move through the water, these as well as their streamlined shell make them very strong swimmers.
Sharp claws allow them to climb up onto the banks of the river and dig holes to lay their eggs in.
They have nostrils on the very tip of their snout so that they can breathe at the surface of the water with the rest of their body submerged, searching for food.
At the start of summer females will walk up onto the bank of the river to find the perfect nesting site. They will dig a hole and lay up to twenty eggs, then cover them back over with dirt and head back to the water. The ‘hatchlings’ will emerge around three months later and make their way to the water. A eastern snake-necked turtle hatchling is roughly the size of a 20 cent coin.
Pollution is a major problem of aquatic environments. Chemicals such as petrol, oils, sewage and fertilisers impact the water quality of the eastern snake-necked turtle habitats and make it harder for them to live in and travel through.
Droughts are also a challenge, when there isn’t enough water it makes it harder for the turtles to move around and find food.
Australian Museum (2020) Eastern snake-necked turtle. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/reptiles/eastern-snake-necked-turtle/>
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services. (n.d). Eastern snake-necked turtle. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/plants-and-animals/eastern-snake-necked-turtle>
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We’d like to acknowledge the Wallumedegal Peoples of the Darug Nation, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we stand and pay our respects to Elders past and present.
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