This large female turtle at Cooper Creek was recaptured after two decades. Donald McKnight
Conservation success stories
Foxes target freshwater turtle nests across Australia, reducing breeding success. Researchers are experimenting with measures to protect nests from predators.
In the New England Tablelands, temporary electric fences served to protect turtle nests from foxes over three breeding spring-summer seasons from 2019 to 2022. But in the Murray River, plastic mesh over individual nests only protected some of them.
Nest protection supports conservation of the endangered Mary River turtle. Over 22 years, more than 100 members of the local community in the Mary River Catchment have led initiatives to protect Mary River turtles. Working with communities has dual benefits – for research and for the people involved, who enjoy connecting to nature.
These collaborations have helped improve river management, informing delivery of water for the environment and improving the quality of river habitats for turtles.
November is Turtle Month for the 1 Million turtles campaign, a national citizen science program bringing together scientists and the community, to support freshwater turtle conservation initiatives.
Through the free TurtleSAT app, people can do more than just report turtle sightings. They can actively contribute to data-driven turtle management.
The app provides real-time data visualisation. The program website also provides education, helping citizen scientists protect nests, establish predator-free turtle sanctuaries, engage in national experiments, and deepen their understanding of turtles and wetlands.
With more than 18,000 records logged, 1,200 turtles saved from road hazards and 500 nests protected, this initiative is crucial in light of the growing threats faced by freshwater turtle species.
Challenges and solutions
Of Australia’s 25 freshwater turtle species, 12 are so poorly known their national conservation status could not be assessed during this 2022 review. Many of these lesser-known species occur in northern Australia.
Of the 15 species or subspecies assessed, we recommended listing a higher level of threat for eight. This included western saw-shelled turtles, which were recently uplisted from vulnerable to endangered.
Threats include habitat loss, being eaten by foxes or feral pigs, disease, fire, and moving species into new areas where they breed with existing turtle species. To manage these threats, we need to move beyond engagement to an integrated approach, where conservation advice is co-determined by First Nations people who are closely involved in implementing recovery plans and action plans.
There is immense value in establishing long-term studies to track these long-lived species. And technology continues to provide new opportunities to learn more.
Future conservation and management will require working with communities to learn more about turtles and protect them. If one million people each save one turtle, collectively we will have made a big difference.
Deborah Bower, Associate Professor in Zoology and Ecology, University of New England; Donald McKnight, , James Cook University; Eric Nordberg, Senior Lecturer (Applied Ecology and Landscape Management), University of New England; James Van Dyke, Associate Professor in Biomedical Sciences, La Trobe University; Michael B Thompson, Emeritus Professor in Zoology, University of Sydney, and Ricky Spencer, Associate Professor of Ecology, Western Sydney University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Header Image courtesy of David Clode, Unsplash.