Australian Snake-necked Turtle,
by Darren Green
The eastern snake-necked turtle, Chelodina longicollis, occurs throughout south-eastern and eastern Australia. It is typically found in swamps, lakes, slow moving waterways, creeks and billabongs. Eastern snake-necked
turtles may migrate overland during the summer months (December to February in Australia!) and they are often found
wandering on overcast days during this time.
Nesting takes place in spring or early summer. Clutch size may be 8 to 24 eggs with an incubation time of 3 to 4 months. This species may hibernate in the wild in the winter months, but by the same token, they may still be active even under cool conditions. The body temperature of an active C. longicollis recorded in the field ranged between 23.7° C and 32.2° C, with a mean temperature of 27.3° C. The carapace may reach up to 300 mm in length with specimens averaging 200 mm.
Chelodina longicollis is the most commonly kept turtle in eastern Australia; it is generally shy but wil adapt quickly into captivity and is the easiest of all Australian species to maintain. Newly captured specimens will
musk, emitting a strong smelling liquid as a means of defense. This, however, ceases as they settle into captivity.
Their diet in the wild includes frogs, tadpoles, small fish and crustaceans. In captivity they will feed on vitamin supplemented raw meat, small mice, fish, and dry puppy chow. They will also accept tinned dog food.
Australian wildlife regulations do not permit taking any turtle species from the wild. However, this practice still
openly exists and eastern snake-necked turtles are commonly (although now with less regularity) offered for sale in
pet shops. Pet shops sell them for anywhere between AUS$25 and AUS$55 in Australia, and for about NZ$300 in New
Zealand. Breeders often give excess stock away or will trade them for other reptiles.
Eastern snake-necked turtles make marvelous pets. Even wild caught specimens will tame down in a matter of weeks
and accept food from your fingers. Soon they begin to swim frantically to the front of the aquarium as you enter the
room, and will try to swim out of the water as you approach. Like many semi-aquatic freshwater turtles, they can be
humorous to watch and can give their owner many hours of enjoyment. I would recommend one of these turtles to the
beginner and advanced hobbyist alike.
Heatwole, H., Reptile Ecology, University of Queensland, 1976.
Cann, J., Tortoises of Australia, Angus and Robertson Publications, 1978.
Weigel, J., Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, Reptile Keepers Association, 1988.
Darren Green is a Tortuga Gazette subscriber from Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. He thanks Greg
Parker of Ballarat Wildlife & Reptile Park, Australia, Dale Gibbons of Bendigo, Australia, and Bryan J. Laughland,
Aukland, New Zealand for help in researching this article
Originally published in the Tortuga Gazette 28(5): 2-3, May 1992