Bring the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Back from the Brink

Over the past year, the Bellingen community has been devastated by the decimation of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, a species unique to the region.

Whilst there is a co-ordinated response to this tragedy from local and state government authorities, the Bellingen Community has a key role to play in bringing the turtles back from the brink.

We have 5 years to get our act together - that's how long it will take for the remaining juveniles in the river to grow to reproductive age.

A healthy river is key to the survival of these turtles.

  • The turtle breathes through its bum so needs high dissolved oxygen level.
  • The turtle needs healthy river bank vegetation to breed safely.
  • The turtle needs healthy river water to support the water bugs and plants it likes to eat.
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The Story so far

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Where do we start ?

Stage 1 - Our first target is to raise $30,000 to support stage 1 Community Involvement and Action in 2016-17.

OzGREEN has launched a crowd funding campaign to raise funds to support community efforts to restore the Bellinger River catchment to health. Funds will be used for education, research and on-ground action.

  • 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.
  • Research – a PhD scholarship at Western Sydney University to investigate the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle and steps to bring the species back from the brink.

OzGREEN is a Bellingen-based environmental learning and leadership organisation, working nationally and internationally. OzGREEN brings more than 25 years of experience in engaging local communities to protect and restore their rivers through citizen science, learning and action projects.  www.ozgreen.org

 

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Recovery Efforts So Far

Since the disease outbreak numerous recovery efforts have been implemented to monitor the survival of the Bellinger River Snapping turtle in the Bellinger River and safe-guard the population for the future.

Monitoring surveys:

In November 2015 and March 2016, field surveys were undertaken along the Bellinger River to establish the remaining population of the Bellinger River Snapping turtle population. Teams of snorkelers searched the river and the main observation from these surveys was the lack of adult turtles remaining in the river. The population now is largely comprised of juvenile Bellinger River Snapping turtles.

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Photo: Team of snorkelers geared up ready to search the river for Bellinger River turtles Photo credit: Kristen Petrov

Captive breeding program:

At the time of the turtle tragedy, a recovery team comprised of the Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Primary Industries, Taronga Zoo and Western Sydney University collected 17 healthy male and female Bellinger River Snapping turtles to form the basis of a captive breeding program.

Multi-Agency Collaboration

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Local Land Services (LLS)
NSW Health
Bellingen Shire Council
Wildlife Health Australia (WHA)
Taronga Wildlife Health Registry
Western Sydney University
Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
Wildlife Animal Carers, Community Groups, Herpetological Groups

For more information:

1. Introductory video from Western Sydney University

2. Notes from Bellingen Community Meeting November 2015

3. Save the Bellinger River Turtle

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