The Australian Reptile Park is leading the effort to save an extremely rare breed of turtle that can be found only in the Manning River. This river is located in New South Wales, on the mid-north coast. Without intervention, experts fear this turtle could be gone in as little as 20 years.
This endangered species is not often seen in the wild. People who do see it can easily recognize it by its yellow markings on its neck. The Manning River turtle is actually one of three turtles found in New South Wales and nowhere else. Each of the three species calls one specific river system home. All three species are considered endangered. One major factor in their struggle is the lack of genetic diversity in the population.
The second type of river-turtle found in the area is called the Bell’s turtle. It is found in the McDonald River and Namoi River and it also struggles with disease and other issues. Pigs and foxes are notorious for destroying turtle nests. They enjoy eating the eggs. Female turtles are especially vulnerable to becoming a predator’s lunch while they are laying eggs, most often by foxes.
Unfortunately, the third breed of turtle, the Bellinger River snapping turtle, went very near extinct in 2015 as the result of a disease. Due to the limited habitat of these turtles, they are very vulnerable to illnesses, predators, and habitat elimination. The amount of stock in the area has contributed to bank erosion, giving the turtles fewer places to lay their eggs. Currently, they are roughly 150 Bellinger River snapping turtle left in existence.
To try to save the Manning River turtle from a similar fate, the Australian Reptile Park, Office of Environment and Heritage, and Aussie Ark have teamed up to start a breeding program. Plans have been made to build a new breeding facility at the Australian Reptile Park. In order to be successful, they are basing their program on other fresh-water turtle breeding programs, including the one at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
This program will also keep track of the number of Manning River turtles in the wild. They will start the breeding program with approximately 10 turtles. If they can successfully get juvenile turtles, it will take roughly a year for them to mature to a point they can start to breed. Hopes are high for this program. Turtles are relatively easy to keep and breed in captivity. These turtles will then be released into the wild. They will be released in areas where the Manning River turtle once thrived. In order to get this project moving, a crowdfunding campaign has been started.
Members of the Manning turtle Conservation Group welcome the attention being brought to this issue. The group was formed in 2017 to help raise awareness about the threat to these fresh-water turtles. Members of the group will be involved in the project by continuing to raise community awareness. The media attention brought by the Australian Reptile Park, as well as their breeding program, is a major victory for the group.
These turtles are found nowhere else on earth. Protecting them now is essential to maintaining their populations and place in the ecosystem for years to come.
At Pegasus Foundation, we care about these turtles and any other endangered species. So if you would like to contribute, you can contact us and make a donation. Let’s face the problem together and protect our animals.