27 Jul PREPARING TO RETURN TO THE WILD
Endangered Manning River Turtles currently housed at conservation organisation Aussie Ark, have just received their final health check, and given the all clear to make their journey back to the wild! The turtles are part of the organisation’s breeding program, which was established in 2018 after the dramatic decline of the species in the wild.
The program, which was developed at the Australian Reptile Park, currently has 12 adult turtles and 20 juvenile turtles in care. This group of juvenile turtles are part of another milestone for the organisation as they were the first to hatch in Aussie Ark’s care. In total, 20 Manning River turtles hatched in March and April 2020 and Aussie Ark is hoping to see successful breeding of the adult turtles in the coming months for this year’s breeding season.
10 of these juvenile turtles are expected to make the journey back to the wild in September this year. The release which has been scheduled to happen in September 2021 and March 2022 were both delayed due to intense rainfall experienced in the area.
Head of Reptile at the Australian Reptile Park, Jake Meney said “It was an incredible moment watching these turtles hatch back in 2020, but now more than anything we are excited to see them returned to the wild”
He continued “We made the decision to postpone twice now due to less-than-ideal conditions, so now our turtles are more than ready to find their new home”
The release, which is scheduled to take place in September, will see the young turtles returned to the river system from which their eggs were initially rescued following reports from the community of foxes in the area.
The Manning River helmeted turtle is found only on the Mid North Coast of NSW, more particularly, the species is restricted to the middle and upper stretches of the Manning River catchment area. Unfortunately, in recent years the Manning River helmeted turtle has seen a significant decline in numbers, although the full extent is not known. The species faces a range of threats, including predation, illegal poaching, habitat degradation and disease. Foxes not only raid the nests and eat the eggs and young turtles but also the mothers as they are laying them on the riverbank. These threats have all drastically reduced the number of surviving individuals and have also left the wild population vulnerable to mass extinction in the face of any catastrophic event that may occur. Water quality, food availability and suitable nesting environments are likely to also have been affected by human use of the land in adjoining areas, causing environmental changes.
Aussie Ark’s insurance population program is the only conservation program established for the species, in the hopes to halt their decline. Aussie Ark works alongside the University of Western Sydney, and the program is supported by Re:wild, the Turtle Conservancy and WIRES.