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Turtle Rescues NSW saving turtles from Sydney’s dams

Turtle Rescues NSW saving turtles from Sydney’s dams

TURTLE lovers are trawling dams across Sydney to rescue the creatures before Sydney’s housing boom arrives.

With a handful of volunteers, Turtle Rescues NSW often get a call with less than 24 hours notice.

They send in a team of volunteers to capture the creatures before machinery bulldozes the dam.

They’ve recently rescued turtles in Schofields, Oran Park, Marsden Park, Catherine Field and Silverdale.

Shane Davies with one of his turtles. Picture: Phil Rogers

And, with plans for the airport at Badgerys Creek, Austral expansion, Rossmore, Edmondson Park and other sites in south western and western Sydney, the men behind Turtle Rescues NSW anticipate life will get even busier.

Shane Davies and Neville Parkes share a passion for turtles and they have a group of volunteers that share that love.

“No one else is crazy enough to get in the dams like we are,” Mr Parkes said.

“Development is happening everywhere — even over the (Blue) mountains and on the Central Coast. We’re always keeping an eye on dams across Sydney.

Neville Parkes and Shane Davies are the faces behind Turtle Rescues NSW. Picture: Phil Rogers

“Those guys in big machines aren’t going to stop and rescue a turtle if they see one.”

Mr Parkes owns Turtle Cove Animal Sanctuary in Sydney’s west and Mr Davies has Turtle Town Sydney. He lives in Valley Heights in the Blue Mountains.

They wade knee deep into dams and are often given less than 24 hours notice.

“When we’re searching dams, we swirl around with our arms in the water and mud.

“The turtles usually brush up against your legs when you do this, so you can grab them,” Mr Parkes said.

A turtle catches a bit of sun. Picture: Phil Rogers

Mr Davies said dams were rife with turtles and other water animals and if they weren’t around to rescue them, the dam walls would be knocked down and the animals left to fend for themselves.

“It’s a grim situation,” Mr Davies said..

“Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

“We’ve had developers tell us an ecologist had already checked. We’ve gone in afterwards. In one instance we found another 67 turtles.”

Mr Davies said they didn’t want to cause trouble for developers or stop growth in Sydney.

“Developers them in and can sometimes build 20 houses where a dam once was,” he said.

“We don’t want to stop development. We don’t want to cause trouble — we just want to help the turtles.

Neville Parkes (left) and Shane Davies (right) on a recent turtle rescue.

“We want the chance to go in and save these animals before their home is destroyed.”

The average rescue takes a few hours. The team also rescue eel, shrimp, fish and other water animals and rehome them back in the wild, far enough away from development.

Finding suitable homes for the animals is getting tougher as urban sprawl encroaches on more Sydney waterways.

“In a decade, I’m not sure where we’re going to be putting these animals,” Mr Davies said.

“That’s why we need to connect with golf courses and developers that put in man-made lakes.

“If we can hold them at a facility while the areas are being built and rehome them close to where we got them from, that’d be great.”

Mr Parkes said local councils could help educate the public by putting up turtle crossing signs.

“If we can tap into the younger generation to keep an eye out for turtles on the side of the road and get mum or dad to stop and put them back in water, that’s the kind of change we need.

“We need to educate people. There’s no reason why people and animals can’t coexist.”

Turtle Rescues NSW has been going a decade but has been busier in the last two years due to Sydney’s growth. Picture: Phil Rogers

Turtley awesome

● There are more than 800 dams in the Sydney area

● Turtles don’t have a connection with their babies. They lay the eggs in soft ground, usually sand and it takes 60 days to incubate

● Tame turtles like to be tickled on their chin

● Each turtle has its own personality

● Their shell is soft at birth. The sun helps harden it

● There are more than 30 varieties of turtle in Australia

● Details: facebook.com/turtle-rescues-new-south-wales