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Population check of Bellinger River snapping turtles

The Bellinger River snapping turtle nests from October to December, laying 10-15 eggs.
The Bellinger River snapping turtle nests from October to December, laying 10-15 eggs.

WITH spring in the air, hopes are healthy numbers of Bellinger River snapping turtles can be found in the waterways.

Staff from the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), including the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) working with Local Land Services and Department of Primary Industries will be surveying the Bellinger River over spring to assess the effects of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle mortality event that occurred earlier in the year.

OEH Manager, Mr Don Arnold, said it's important to see the number of turtles as they become active with the warmer weather.

"Scientists from the Department of Primary Industries recently identified a previously unknown virus as the cause of the mortality event," Mr Arnold said.

"It is not known however, if the virus is still active or whether it will re-emerge.

"We are unsure what we will find, but are hoping to locate healthy turtles that have either escaped the virus or show resistance to it."

Mr Arnold said staff will be undertaking searches for surviving turtles in coming weeks. Observations of other turtle species in the river will also be made to check that they haven't also been affected by this virus.

He added it's also important for humans to understand the effect their actions and behaviour can have, particularly at a time when the Bellinger River snapping turtle population is at such a fragile stage. 

"Given so little is known about the virus, maintaining good hygiene is important to stop the potential spread of this virus to other river catchments, and to related species of turtles," he said.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

  • Do not handle any turtles, Bellinger River Snapping Turtles or other species.
  • Do not collect sick or dead turtles.
  • Swim/Kayak in only one location, or clean and dry your gear between visits to different locations.
  • Wash down kayaks with soapy water and dry thoroughly before re-use.
  • To report sick or dead turtles, note details of the location, take a photo (if possible) and phone 131 555.

Topics:  bellinger river national parks and wildlife service npws office of environment and heritage



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