Pat Conaghan MP

Precious Bellinger turtle snaps up funding

Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan says a Federal Government-funded program is helping save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle following a mass mortality event in 2015.

He said a mysterious virus swept through the population, reducing the species’ numbers from about 4000 to just 300 in a little under two months.

Mr Conaghan said the funding of $1.5 million – $750,000 habitat and $801,000 for captive breeding – was providing much needed assistance to the turtle population.

“The tiny turtle, which is also known as the George’s Snapping Turtle, suffered another terrible blow from drought and then had the Black Summer bushfires rip through its habitat,” he said.

The Cowper MP visited the Bellinger River site with Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley on Monday March 8 to participate in health checks of the turtles in the wild and meet with the many partners helping the turtle to recover.

“There is a great collaborative effort underway between the Federal 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,” he said.

“Through the Federal Government’s $200 million Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat investment, North Coast Local Land Services has received $750,000 to support bushfire recovery projects which include leading the restoration efforts for the Bellinger River.

“At the same time we have invested more than $800,000 in two captive breeding programs, one with Symbio Wildlife Park and expanding another at Taronga Zoo, that will see more of the Bellinger River Turtles released back into their native environment.

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

The funding is 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 added.

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/