OzGREEN, a local environmental education NGO, jumped into action as soon as it became evident that the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle was dangerously close to becoming extinct. OzGREEN launched a CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN ON CHUFFED.ORG with its aim to support Community Involvement and Action, involving Bellingen Schools and Community in citizen science, learning and on-ground action to protect the turtles and restore river health.
The first initiative in this Community Involvement and Action Plan was to run an OzGREEN 'MyRiver Program' which ran between 19-23 September 2016 and engaged 30 young people from local high schools in water testing and analysis and enabled them to present their findings at a Community Forum.
MyRiver Bellinger was hugely successful with these young participants coming up with an amazing Action Plan to produce and promote specially designed "Turtles are Keepers" KeepCups to distribute around the cafes of Bellingen and further afield seeking to raise funds for this cause and discourage the use of disposable cups and single-use plastic.
However there is so much more work to be done and OzGREEN are appealing to you members of the community, young people, parents, teachers, businesses, politicians and just to those of you who care to MAKE A DONATION TO THIS APPEAL so we can continue this important work and direct these funds towards education programs, research projects and on-ground action. We have got JUST 5 YEARS to turn the health of the river around for breeding of next generation.
To understand how OZGREEN'S Education Programs are so important to this cause, here is an outline of the recent MyRiver Bellinger and its outcomes.
The aim of the OzGREEN MyRiver Bellinger Program was to learn about and help the local environment and raise awareness of global and local sustainability issues i.e. the health of the Bellinger River and the plight of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtles.
What we did
- Tested 8 sites on Bellinger River upstream of Lavenders Bridge 19-20 September. Testing involved a 14-point assessment of riparian zone and testing for dissolved oxygen, oxygen saturation, temperature, phosphates, pH, turbidity, fecal coliform (that’s 168 tests!)
- Met together at Youth Hub for 3 days to analyse our results, measure our Eco-footprints, learn about global challenges like climate change, decide on the issues of most importance to us and plan what we were going to do to create change.
Who was involved?
- About 30 teenagers from Bellingen High School and Chrysalis Steiner School.
- Geography Teacher Andy Core from Bellingen High School was with us for the whole week too.
- The OzGREEN team: Sue Lennox, Colin Lennox, Jane Grant, Gemma Plesman and Sharna Russell.
What were you most concerned about?
We were all disturbed to see dissovled oxygen levels were so low and degraded riparian habitat. Overall our biggest concerns were:
- Pollution of the river by fertilisers and sewage
- Habitat loss and land clearing - erosion and sedimentation
- Human behaviour and ignorance
- Loss of biodiversity (including species extinction, overfishing, deforestation, shark culling)
- Global warming (including CSG, impact of fossil fuels, need for a rapid transition to renewables, ice retreating)
- Lack of government leadership (including fear about Donald Trump)
We wanted to find a solution that other people can get involved in.
- We wanted to do something that helps shift people away from mindless behaviours like using take-away cups, and start to be more conscious about the impact of our everyday actions.
- This lead us to the idea of the “Turtles are Keepers” reusable cups. We can both raise funds to support further research, education and action as well as raise awareness.
- A meeting has been planned to decide the next steps and prepare for our involvement in the Bellingen Turtlefestival 30th September.
We want to conduct follow up testing including:
- Follow up 14-hour monitoring of dissolved oxygen at Lavenders Bridge. DO levels were very low.
- Follow up testing of total phosphorous, biochemical oxygen demand and macro-invertebrate studies.
- Post rain event testing of key sites.
- Repeating the river health snapshot on a quarterly basis.
We plan to get involved in on-ground actions to regenerate the riparian zone of the river and research the best ways to create turtle breeding habitat.
On Friday we ran a Community Forum for the public to report on our results, our plans and our experience.
We had some wonderful guest speakers including:
- Local Gumbaynggirr Elder Uncle Michael
- Gerry Mcgilvray and Shane Ruming from Office of Environment and Heritage to talk about the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle
- Alex Waldron from Bellingen Shire Council to talk about the BSC River Management Plan
Feedback from Participants on the Program
What was the experience like?
"It has been both shocking and eye-opening to learn about sustainability challenges locally and globally. It has also been exciting to learn how we can help the world and encourage others to help. It has been great learning about these issues as a group and planning activities together in a supportive way."
What did you discover?
"As the younger generation we have discovered that people have been unconscious of the impacts of their actions in the past.
We discovered and were concerned particularly by the low oxygen levels in the river. Because the turtle’s breath underwater out of their rectum we wondered if that would affect them."
What do you want to do when you’re older?
"We are inspired to continue protecting our local environment and perhaps one day become scientists and activists."
What did you know about the Bellingen River prior to this?
"Being on the river was sad because although we spend a lot of time on the river we were alarmed to learn what was actually going on with the health of the river. We have all grown up swimming and canoeing by the river but did not know about the health."
How people can help?
"You can help reduce your eco-footprint and support the project to save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle by buying a “Turtles are Keepers” reusable cup and donating to our crowd funding campaign on chuffed."
Donate here: savetheturtle appeal & follow us on Facebook: Save the Bellinger River Turtle
And finally, when you Donate to this Fund this is what you get!
The knowledge that your efforts have saved this endearing little guy from extinction.
Oz Green-Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (Australia) Incorporated is registered as a charity with the Australian
Charities and Not-for-profits Commission ABN 82 828 395 461.