Turtles Snap Up $1.5m Funding For Bushfire Recovery And Breeding Programs

Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, inspects a Bellinger River snapping turtle.


LAST Monday, the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, travelled to the Bellinger River near Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of New South Wales, to participate in health checks of the turtles in the wild and met with the many partners helping the turtle to recover.

Ms Ley said, “There is a great collaborative effort underway between the Australian Government, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Saving Our Species program, North Coast Local Land Services, Taronga Zoo, Symbio Wildlife Park, Landcare, scientists and community organisations to save the turtle.”

The Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, named after the only stretch of river in which it is found, suffered a mass mortality event in 2015 when a mysterious illness went through the population, reducing the species number from approximately 4000 to 300 in just under two months.

The tiny turtle, which is also known as the George’s Snapping Turtle, then suffered another terrible blow from drought and before the Black Summer bushfires ripped through its habitat.

Ms Ley said the Federal government has provided $750,000 to support bushfire recovery projects which include leading the restoration efforts for the Bellinger River and more than $800,000 in two captive breeding programs, one with Symbio Wildlife Park and another at Taronga Zoo.

“Turtles play a vital role in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems in rivers by consuming dead and decaying matter and helping to recycle nutrients,” she said.

“This particular turtle has had a horrible time of things and deserves the attention it is receiving.”

Ms Ley pointed out that weed and erosion control in fire-affected rivers and waterways is crucial not only
for the turtle but also helps a range of species including local platypus populations.”

The Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan MP said that the Federal Government Funding was helping the North Coast Local Land Services ensure the upper reaches of the river see a coordinated recovery effort that protects and restores habitat for the turtle, while also benefiting the local platypus population and other native species.

“The North Coast Land Services and local community members do an amazing job,” Mr Conaghan said.

“They are people who are out there, getting their hands dirty to make a difference in what is one of the country’s most important natural environments.”

More information on the government’s action to drive recovery of our precious native wildlife and plants from the bushfires is at: https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery.


By Andrew VIVIAN

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