Hansi explains: “My involvement with Devilbend started prior to 2012 and it being opened to the public with a monthly visit to the 1005ha reserve to assist in carrying out a bird count with my son, who is passionate about our feathered friends. It was then 18 months ago I found myself having a lot more free time and started going to Devilbend to help a friend, Marnie, with the Friends of Daangean group she organises. I then began an ambassador program in late 2017, which involves a couple of schools coming out to the reserve to learn about and see things they won’t see anywhere else.
“It was while doing a frog census with the ambassadors that revealed a glimpse of a ‘dug up’ nest on the foreshore. It didn’t look right but it was definitely a turtle nest. When I first saw the turtle nest I thought it was a one-off, but in November last year it became evident that there were more. It was time to investigate further.”
And investigate he did — but first some interesting notes about the reserve, which has significant cultural and environmental importance. As an essential element of country to the Boonwurrung/Bunurong people, the Devilbend Natural Features Reserve in Graydens Rd, Moorooduc, has one of the largest inland bodies of water on the Peninsula and thus a huge shoreline. It is also home to hectares of native and non-native vegetation. Hansi is working closely with turtle ecologists and returns once a week to map the reserve for the eastern long-neck turtle nests, but the job is huge and requires a great deal of people power to really understand just how many turtles are successful in having their young. Volunteers from the public also come out to help every fortnight, and young adults from Bunjilwarra have also been assisting Hansi with monitoring.
Hansi continues: “Foxes raid the nests each laying season. They also leave scats (poo) behind to mark their territory so they know where to come back for more. Turtles usually lay their eggs in spring after a rain event, and laying is generally site-specific. Two hundred and twenty fox-raided nests have been found since we began mapping the reserve. We’ve also found that there are two to 10 eggs on average per nest. That’s a lot of baby eastern long-neck turtles not making it to the water. Approximately 90-95 per cent of the eggs are being mainly raided by foxes. At the moment we have three nests with eggs in them that haven’t hatched. We’ve covered these with mesh that is kept in place with pegs since gaining permission from Parks Victoria, who have been 100 per cent supportive. This method has been successful in helping save the Murray River turtle, which is listed as threatened.”
If you’d like to know more about this project, call Hansi on 0432 307 634 and get involved in saving some long-necked adorable ancient critters. One nest at a time.