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Historic world first return of endangered Manning River turtles back to the wild!  

Aussie Ark, has today returned 10 endangered Manning River turtles back to the wild in a world first. The program has been supported by the Australian Governments wildlife rescue and rehabilitation initiative, following the bushfire disaster of 2019/20, as well as partners the Australian Reptile Park, Re:wild , Western Sydney University and WIRES. 

The release is the first of its kind for the program established back in 2018 and is hugely significant as these particular turtles were rescued from the nest during the bushfire disaster of 2020, whilst still in the egg.  

“This has been a long time coming. We have cared for these juveniles for over 2 years now, and have watched and waited patiently as our river systems recovered from fire, drought and then floods” Said Tim Faulkner, Aussie Ark Managing Director. 

He continued “This is what the program is all about, rescuing an endangered species and getting them back to the wild. Getting to see them swim off into the river is not a site I will soon forget” 

This group is 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 witness the hatching of additional turtles in the coming months for this year’s breeding season. 

Prior to the release, Aussie Ark staff monitored the Manning River for many months to ensure that the body of water was substantial, clean, and flowing. Manning River turtles are restricted to the middle and upper stretches of the Manning River catchment area and are found in relatively shallow, clear, continuously fast-flowing rivers with rocky and sandy substrates.

“It’s been a tricky few years for our wildlife” said Jake Meney, Head of Reptiles at the Australian Reptile Park. 

“These particular individuals were rescued during one of the worst drought and bushfire disasters our country has seen. Since then, though, their river systems have been hugely impacted by severe floods. It has been critical that we watch and wait patiently before releasing these guys back” He continue. 

As the 2019 – 2020 bushfires left the river system with contaminated water and dried parts, it was necessary for Aussie Ark to make sure the water quality of the river was suitable for the species to live in. Food availability and suitable nesting environments were also taken into consideration. Just as the rivers seemed to have recovered La Niña swept through and washed away entire riverbanks. 

The team at Aussie Ark are thrilled to have been able to see the return of this endangered species back to wild. The greatest risk for these turtles is when they are at their most vulnerable in an egg, Aussie Ark’s program allows for the headstarting of the species. 

The development of this project was supported by the Australian Government’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation initiative, following the bushfire disaster of 2019/2020. The team at Aussie Ark are grateful for the support and the opportunity to work alongside the Australian government to achieve tangible outcomes for wildlife in Australia. 

Aussie Ark is proud of its first wild translocation of the endangered species, but understands that more must be done. The organisation is eager to see the program develop over the coming years and expand to see the return of hundreds more endangered turtles back to the wild. 

The breeding program for the endangered Manning River turtle is supported by Western Sydney University, the Australian Reptile Park, Re:wild, WIRES, Glencore, Australian Geographic and the Turtle Conservancy. As well as local businesses, Kleinfelder, Manning River Steel, Aus Eco Solutions, Steber international and The Happy Wombat. Without these loyal supporters, as well as supporters at home, the release would not have been possible. 

Donate today to support Aussie Ark and our conservation efforts for the Manning River Turtle!