Protecting our unique turtle

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Flaviemys purvisi

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03 March 2022
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Photo: courtesy Phil Spark


Everyone’s invited to come along to a waterbug workshop to help protect the habitat of the Manning River Turtle.

Healthy rivers mean the turtles’ habitat is suitable for them to thrive. MidCoast Council is inviting the community to help them conduct a waterbug study on the Nowendoc River on Saturday 12 March from 9.30am – 12pm.

Children are welcome if an adult is with them at all times. The workshop is co-hosted by MidCoast Council, the Manning River Turtle Group and Aus Eco Solutions. Spaces are limited so booking by Tuesday 8 March is essential – phone Kerrie at Aus Eco on 0418 379 329.

Waterbugs are an indicator for water quality and ecosystem health. The workshop will feature dip-netting, waterbug identification and information on how to protect the Manning River Turtle.

“Manning River turtles live in the freshwater rivers and creeks of the Manning catchment. They don’t exist anywhere else in the world. It’s important to find out more about them and work together as a community to protect them,” said Council’s Manager of Natural Systems, Gerard Tuckerman.

“If the turtles disappear from here, the world loses another species.”

Scientists believe the number of turtles has reduced in recent years. Things like habitat loss, climate change and extreme weather events, disease and attacks on their nests by foxes and pigs are putting the turtles under pressure.

These turtles are important for the well-being of other animals in our waterways. They also help improve the health of the river and areas around it.

The workshop is part of the River Revival program to help conserve the Manning River Turtle. The program also includes work by scientists to restore refuge pools and conduct turtle surveys using eDNA.

“Before we can help these turtles, we need to know more about how many there are and where they are,” added Mr Tuckerman.

Thanks to funds from the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Program, MidCoast Council is working with Charles Sturt University to trial a world-first eDNA technology.

“We want to identify the turtles’ presence in rivers and creeks from the DNA they leave behind in the water. This method will give us a better picture of how the turtles are doing – it’s also faster and cheaper.”

As this is a world-first trial of the new eDNA technology, this study will help scientists understand how well this new method works in the wild.

University researchers and citizen scientists will collect water samples for eDNA analysis. At the same time, turtle experts will undertake traditional sampling so the eDNA results can be compared to usual methods.

“If successful, eDNA technology will help us prioritise our recovery and conservation efforts.”

The study is a partnership between Hunter Local Land Services, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and the Manning River Turtle Group, with the support of catchment landholders.
 

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