JANUARY 10 2019 Debbie Bower Survival techniques: Eastern long-necked turtles can often be seen trying to cross busy roads. If you’ve driven anywhere during the rain lately, you’ve probably chanced upon a not-so-ninja turtle attempting to cross the road. Long-necked turtles love a good hike and can spend long periods of time out of the water. This makes them well adapted to life in temporary water bodies. They can join the party in times of flood when they thrive off the pulse of life that happens as insects hatch and nutrients fill rivers and billabongs. Unfortunately for turtles, highways were not such a big deal a few million years ago, so they haven’t exactly evolved to tolerate the perils of traffic. If you, like me, help the odd fella off the road occasionally, you may also have experienced the eau-de-turtle. Equipped with two small musk glands either side of their shell, long-necked turtles will retreat while leaking a bright orange perfume when disturbed. "Turtles are old animals that have been around since dinosaurs." The smell assaults your nostrils in ways that make the gym smell good. It’s a fantastic repellent, one that I sometimes wish I had on hand when I really want to be left in peace. Like a lot of passive aggression, it has a way of lingering with you. When they aren’t feeling threatened, long-neck turtles live a secretive life below murky water. Feasting on insects and carrion in billabongs and creeks, they are an important part of the food web. Though there are few native species that would successfully predate on an adult turtle, foxes are the main feral predator of adult turtles and their eggs. Mummy turtle must take the risk and leave the billabong under the cover of darkness over summer. She uses her back legs to dig a hole a small way from the water’s edge. Laying some six to 23 eggs in the hole before covering it, she lets them incubate for several months. It’s up the hatchlings to make their way out, which they do in synchrony, and scurry down to the water avoiding predation by birds and goannas. Or not. Few will make it. Turtles are old animals that have been around since dinosaurs. Unfortunately, many species are threatened with extinction because of the destruction of their habitat, particularly in rivers. Even our seemingly common long-necks face the challenges of urbanisation and feral species. So if you see one that you can safely help cross the road, do them a solid and keep this curious species around for our grandkids to enjoy.