By Jacob McArthur APRIL 11 2019 GROW UP: Researcher Lou Streeting with a baby Bell's turtle and a bigger version at about 25-years-old. Photo: Peter Hardin HELPING HAND: Bendemeer school students helped release the hatchlings into the Macdonald river. Photo: Peter Hardin SET FREE: 19 youngsters ready to take on the wild. Photo: Peter Hardin CUP OF DESTINY: The Bell's turtle hatchling tatstes freedom for the first time. Photo: Peter Hardin RIVER CREW: The turtle release drew a small crowd down to the river Photo: Peter Hardin THERE'S almost an army fighting to ensure no bell tolls for this native species. With scientists in labs and out in the field, conservationists, farmers and even sniffer dogs playing their part for the Bell's turtle, hopefully an extinction can be avoided. University of New England environmental science researcher Lou Streeting has a lot of little turtle lives in her hands as she helps foster hatchlings in the lab before releasing them into their native waterways in the northern tablelands. The first release saw 135 hatchlings set free in 2018. Returning to the Macdonald River on Wednesday, Ms Streeting, with the help of Bendemeer school students, released 19 more turtles as part 262-strong cohort which will be set free across the region in coming weeks. It's still an uphill battle faced by the turtles with researchers fearful a ostensible missing generation could develop dire consequences for the species. "The problem is that there is no juveniles," Ms Streeting said. The project, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust, has also seen more than 300 wild-hatched turtles returned to the waterways with the help of sniffer dogs locating nests which are then fitted with fox-proof nets. Foxes are the main predator of the Bell's Turtle. "More than 95 per cent of the nests are getting eaten," Ms Streeting said. "It is just devastating." But there are signs the scheme is working. A few of the turtles released last year have been located surviving in the wild. "We found some 300 days after they were released which is pretty exciting," she said. "I think over 16 years of monitoring those turtles, only a handful of 12 month hatchlings have ever been found."