Turtle hatchlings joy after NSW disasters

To say the Manning River helmeted turtle has been doing it tough of late is something of an understatement.

First the drought sucked water from the shallow rivers where the species lives.

Then the Black Summer bushfires ravaged the NSW mid-north coast, the only place on earth they are found.

Then came the floods.

So it’s not exaggerating to say ecologists are elated with the discovery of tiny hatchlings, the first since surveying of the endangered freshwater species began in 2019.

Rye Gollan from the Hunter branch of state government agency Local Land Services said just one nest was found in recent years, with no sign of any hatchlings.

“This sighting provides valuable insight into the early life stages of these animals, in particular nesting ecology, helping us to hopefully find more … nests,” he said.

“Importantly, it also guides our future management practices to best protect their habitat and ensure future survival.”

Efforts to protect the species have ramped up since the fires tore through, including work to control feral predators.

“Foxes and pigs are a key threat to freshwater turtle nests, and to adults when they leave the water to lay their eggs,” Mr Gollan said.

“With favourable conditions following bushfires, feral pigs have experienced a massive spike in a number of priority reaches of turtle habitats.”

Resulting control efforts have seen more than 300 pigs removed from priority areas since the fires.

Work is also underway to restore habitat, and to control erosion and weeds.

The species is currently listed as endangered in NSW but after the recent succession of disasters it has been nominated for federal listing.


Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)


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