The clear cool waters of the Manning catchment are home to our very own Manning River turtle.
Around six years ago the public profile of this reclusive and ancient creature was promoted by Manning Clean Water Action Group as part of the protest movement against coal seam gas extraction at Gloucester.
Soon turtle images started appearing on placards along Gloucester’s main street and it was adopted as a mascot for the Gloucester Protest Camp.
With its distinctive yellow and black markings this handsome turtle has attracted the interest of local artists and, since early 2017, the Manning River Turtle Conservation Group has been working with young people to create exciting turtle artworks and raise funds for conservation of the turtle.
The real tipping point for the turtle came with its inclusion on the NSW list of endangered species. This status attracted Save our Species funding allowing NSW’s Environment Department to survey the catchment to determine where the turtle is living and literally put it “on the map”. In 2019 Manning River Turtles were found in surveys of the Gloucester River.
Aussie Ark stepped in just in time to rescue turtles from the extreme drought conditions last year to establish a captive breeding program. In March this year the first baby Manning River turtle hatched at the Australian Reptile Park signalling success in initiating an insurance population to protect the turtle. None of this would have been possible without the cooperation of landholders giving access to streams on their properties for turtle survey and recovery work.
Nowadays the Manning River turtle has gained international fame: being promoted by (Acadamy Award winning actor) Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance. The Alliance has provided significant funds to establish the Australian Wildfire Fund to help communities most affected by the bushfires, enable wildlife recovery and support the restoration of ecosystems.
Manning Landcare was delighted to receive Federal Government funding, in partnership with Oz Fish and Landcare Australia, to support the Manning River turtle. Together with Hunter Local Land Services and the Manning River Turtle Conservation Group, Landcare will be working with bushfire impacted landholders within the upper Manning catchment region for restoration works centred around restoring habitat quality for this local species.
Works may include weeding, planting, fencing or soft erosion techniques. The MidCoast2Tops Regional Landcare Coordinator, Jessica Leck, will be identifying sites throughout November. If you, or someone you know, has bushfire impacted riverside property in the Upper Manning catchment, get in touch with Jess at email@example.com or come along to the Property Recovery and Resilience Action Planning workshop at Bobin on 19 November. Register your interest for the workshop at www.midcoast2tops.org.au.
With the support of the Manning community our turtle will thrive!
Genevieve Godwin BSc
Some fun facts about the Manning River Helmeted Turtle – Myuchelys purvisi
|The genus name Myuchelys is formed from the Aboriginal word myuna meaning clear water and the Greek chelys meaning tortoise.|
|The species name purvisi honours Australian amateur herpetologist and teacher Malcomb Purvis, who was based in North Sydney.|
|The Manning River Helmeted Turtle is considered to be the oldest species in the genus, with estimates that its lineage has been in existence for up to 55 million years. It has been described a living fossil.|
|The Manning River Turtle is thought to be the ancestor of virtually all Australian turtles.|
|There is ongoing conjecture about its taxonomy, with it being placed in four different genera at various times (Elseya, Myuchelys, Flaviemys and Wollumbinia). (Turtle taxonomy is not for the feint hearted!)|
|The turtle is most active in the warmer months and can hibernate for weeks at the bottom of pools breathing only through its bottom.|
|This settled lifestyle often results in water weeds growing on the turtle’s shell and head. Like the Mary River Turtle in Queensland this gives our turtle a punk profile!|
|Leonardo DiCaprio DiCaprio has said his career choice as a child was to become a marine biologist or an actor. He is the proud owner of an African Sulcata tortoise and has used his fame and wealth to promote environmental awareness for over 20 years.|