We are really lucky to have some of Western Australia’s most unique wildlife here in our back garden. If you are lucky, perhaps you may spot one of these wonderful animals when you are out and about. Here are some fascinating facts about our local fauna.
Oblong or long necked turtle
We have three wetlands just south of the Bindoon area, which are home to the Oblong Turtle. Adults grow up to 50 cm long, however hatchlings are only the size of a 20-cent coin. In Spring and Summer, female turtles leave the water to find sandy soils to lay between 2 – 16 eggs. Oblong Turtles can live up to 40 years in good conditions.
Like crocodiles, these turtles can drop their body temperature, slow their pulse rate and use stored body fat instead of eating, to survive in hot dry conditions. They may bury themselves in mud or under leaves or logs, conserving body fluids until conditions are more suitable. Turtles can be vulnerable to predators and human activity such as clearing and ground work during this time. They are also vulnerable when searching for their nesting ground to being hit by motor vehicles whilst crossing roads. September to January is the most vulnerable period due to travel of the females away from the water to lay eggs, and the return of the hatchlings to the water.
If you see a turtle, please leave it alone, and keep pets away. If the turtle is on the road, it may be necessary to move the turtle in order to avoid it being hit by a car. If the road is quiet, it is best to stop, assist the turtle to cross in the direction it was travelling, and then leave it be. If you find an injured turtle, please contact the Wildcare Helpline (9474 9055) or Chittering Wildlife Carers to seek assistance.
These unusual little frogs live in burrows in soft earth, which can be up to 1.3 metres deep. The male attracts the female with his distinctive call, usually during the month of July. If you wish to know what this sounds like use this link to hear a range of frog calls… https://museum.wa.gov.au/research/collections/terrestrial-zoology/herpetology-reptiles-and-frogs-collection/frog-calls When the turtle frogs have matched up they mate several months later. The difference between this frog and most others is that the eggs develop to adults entirely within the egg itself, thus not requiring standing water to swim and develop.
Turtle frogs live on termites, which make them a very useful garden accessory! They have powerful arms with which to dig into mounds and make their burrows. Have a listen out in your garden to see if one of these unusual little critters is around.
Our echidnas are monotremes, which mean they are egg laying, predatory mammals, with one orifice for defecation, urination, and reproduction (a cloaca). They have both fur and spines, the fur for warmth and insulation, and the spines for protection. They also have short powerful front legs for digging at speed, and generally live underground unless they are foraging or looking for a mate. Echidnas hibernate during the colder months and emerge in Springtime.
Our echidnas have a short snout and a specialised long, sticky tongue which is great for eating ants and termites. A female echidna lays one egg per year, and after mating continues on her solitary way for the rest of the year. The puggle, as newborn echidnas are called, lives in mum’s pouch and is initially the size of a grape, but grows quickly on mum’s rich milk. Once they reach around 7 weeks old, they need to stay out of the pouch as their spines have grown too long! They live in the burrow for a further 4 months or so before leaving to live their solitary lives.
The most common threats to our echidnas are motor vehicles and habitat destruction, so if you are clearing any land, please consider leaving some natural vegetation on the periphery for our native animals to continue to forage.
Whatever time of year it is, please take care to look out for our native animals as you drive along country roads. Dawn and dusk are the times when animals (and your vehicle) are most at risk. Dappled sunlight at the edge of the road in sunny conditions can also conceal small stationary animals, so awareness of this, as well as driving slightly away from the shoulder keeps our wildlife safe.