A Mary River turtle hatchling.
A Mary River turtle hatchling.

Program helping hatchlings survive first journey to Mary River

THE real action begins for Marilyn Connell after dozens of tiny bodies have scurried away from their nests and found shelter on the banks of the Mary River.

It is then that Ms Connell and her team from Tiaro Landcare carefully look at each egg and make notes about how many have hatched, which were infertile and what the numbers mean for the endangered Mary River turtle.

The bum-breathing turtles are famous in the area, but their numbers have been under threat for decades.

Under the Mary River Turtle Nest Protection Program the team has been digging up sites throughout the banks of the river.

“The nesting season for this turtle has just finished and Tiaro Landcare members are busy collecting nest protection equipment and digging up the nests to find how many empty egg shells there are that turtles have hatched from,” Ms Connell said. “By going out in the early morning scouring the river bank for nests, Tiaro Landcare members have been protecting the nests before the predators arrive.

“This season 44 nests were protected and we wait to see how many hatchlings resulted from their efforts.

“The very dry summer we’ve just had meant there were few opportunities for the female turtles to lay their eggs as they need the soil to be moist so the nesting chamber they dig doesn’t collapse while they are laying their eggs.”

Not every nest has a happy ending. There have been some signs that predators got to nests or hatchlings before they were able to make their journey to the river.

For years, Mary River turtles were sold in pet shops in Victoria as penny-turtles before coming to the attention of Sydney turtle researcher John Cann. It is recognised as being one of the most threatened species of freshwater turtle in eastern Australia.

Ms Connell will investigate several more nests on the weekend to build a picture of the success of conservation measures..

The turtles were mentioned in Fraser Coast Council’s Threatened Species Action Plan adopted last month.

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