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Turtles

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Introduction

We understand how difficult it can be to get information for people from the various cultures who have called Australia home. It is our hope that you will find the following information helpful and provide reassurance for you and your family.

Myths about Freshwater Turtles in Victoria

Myth: Turtles and Tortoises are the same

Truth: No a tortoise is a club footed, land dwelling (terrestrial), reptile. It can only feed and breed on land. A freshwater turtle can only breed and feed in the water. It also has clawed, webbed feet.

Myth: All turtles are the same

Truth: Marine turtles spend nearly all of their life at sea, have flippers, and only come shore to lay eggs. Freshwater turtles spend a large amount of their lives in freshwater, but do come ashore to lay eggs, they aestivate (go dormant) or sometimes colonise new water ways. There is also a wide range of species across Australia than differ in habits and behaviour.

Myth: Freshwater turtles hibernate

Truth: Freshwater turtles do leave the water to aestivate not hibernate. This term applies to animals that remain isolated typically during very cold winters. Aestivation on land is more a response to Australia’s harsh conditions of heat. So, a turtle may wander find a relatively cool somewhat moist area and go into a inactive state called aestivation and remain buried in soil or leaf litter sometimes under large trees or dense foliage. The turtle will remain until heavy rains come and replenish the dry water source. This triggers a response from the turtle who returns to the water way. Dormancy in turtles may occur where a turtle still stays either in the water or around the edges dormant slowly reduced breathing of air or oxygen at very slow rate. When the water begins to warm due to increase air temperatures of spring months the turtles begins to become active again.

Myth: Turtles with a cracked shell feel no pain

​Truth: Dreadfully wrong, turtles are in great pain due to damage to their living shell. Despite the active state of a turtle, it is always imperative to seek veterinary help for turtles with damage to shells or wounds.

Myth: Turtles do not need to breathe air

​Truth: No, turtles are air breathing reptiles that live in water. Yes, they can hold their breath for long periods under water and use oxygen at a slower rate. They will surface regularly during the day to take breaths. 

Myth: It's okay to mark a shell or drill holes in captive turtles

Truth: No, it really is not OK and as a protected species and welfare agencies can attest you may find yourself under investigation if you do any of these.

Myth: A penny Turtle is a species

Truth: The penny turtle is an expression usually referred to a baby turtle, often the size of a 20 cent coin when the hatch. The term penny turtle is a US expression for similar sized turtles.

Myth: Turtles live for a long time

Answer: Yes, that’s true a freshwater turtle may live for 60 years e.g. Long-necked turtle. Some tortoises have been documented for 150 -200 years really amazing.

Myth: I can take turtles from the wild

Truth: NO. Turtles are protected by law and may only be obtained as pets from a person or entity that has obtained them lawfully.

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