This is interesting. Researchers found that turtles that lived in the suburbs of Canberra, Australia travelled longer distances and occupied home ranges nearly three times larger than turtles in adjacent nature reserves.


Both turtle populations made long journeys of up to two and a half kilometres between bodies of water.

“Given their extensive movements, we expected that suburban turtles would have a high rate of encounters with vehicles on roads, and thus fewer would survive,” Dr Roe says.

“Despite this, suburban turtles did not suffer appreciably higher mortality than their counterparts on reserve lands, only one of our 36 radio tracked turtles was hit by a vehicle,” he told BBC News.

Vegetated drainage lines and drainage culverts running under roads in the suburbs of Canberra protected the turtles.

“The vegetated drainage lines and culverts allowed the turtles to move about and use the landscape in normal ways, which reduced their exposure to urban threats and allowed them to avoid suffering from excessive road mortality,” Dr Roe explains.

Turtles in the nature reserves responded to the drying up of the wetlands by estivating, lying dormant buried under leaf litter.

However, suburban turtles did not need to.

“Water bodies are often incorporated into urban design for the purposes of storm water removal and retention,” Dr Roe says.

So “suburban water bodies remain flooded, allowing turtles to maintain aquatic activities throughout the drought.”

That means turtles living in towns and cities are immune to the worst effects of prolonged drought, which can deplete wild turtles’ energy and water stores.

“It appears that the suburban landscapes, despite their many challenges, may be higher quality habitats than nature reserves for turtles during drought,” Dr Roe says.

Dr Roe hopes to continue the research to see if this trend is represented over the turtles’ entire life span.

He also hopes to monitor the turtles’ response to the frequent droughts that are gripping much of Australia whilst exploring how suburban areas, road design and urban planning may effect them.

“It would be interesting to determine whether well-designed urban areas hold any promise as long term drought refuges for some turtle populations.”


These findings seem to run contrary to the commonly upheld belief that urbanization and hence the loss of natural habitats are always detrimental to the wildlife that remain in the steadily shrinking patches of nature areas embedded in the urban matrix. This thus comes as a rather heartening example of Nature’s resilience and intrinsic adaptability. Although, of course, not all animals would be as adaptable nor as fortunate.