Turtles, or freshwater tortoises have been dying in the Lower Lakes in large numbers as far back as April 2008 due to several problems. Lack of freshwater from the River Murray has caused a rise in salinity. Also seepage from the barrages and opening the Goolwa lock also causes a rise in salinity. This allows for marine tubeworms to populate the lakes' more saline areas, and without the marine species of fish to eat the tubeworms and keep them in balance, the tubeworms become a problem. The tubeworms attach to the tortoise's shell weighing them down, preventing them from pulling in their legs and neck leaving them open to heavy predation by rats, foxes and birds.
Once again the barrages, by artificially dividing the sea from freshwater, are causing environmental harm on an altered ecosystem.
It is believed that when the EC levels reach about 10,000 EC, the tubeworms can survive. The only fish on the 'freshwater' side are carp, and they don't eat tubeworms.
Local school children have been doing their part for years showing their dedication to helping the environment and the turtles.
As of 15th October 2009, the DEH has announced a special project officer to manage the problem. They are asking people to bring the turtles into the special rehabilitation program where trained volunteers will take care of them. Contact Kerri on 0428 476 521 or the DEH Wyndgate Office on 8575 1200.