The Mary River turtle is seriously endangered: here are the reasons



by LORENZO CIOTTI

The Mary River turtle is seriously endangered: here are the reasons

The Mary River turtle is an endangered short-necked turtle endemic to the Mary River in southeastern Queensland, Australia. While these turtles were known to have inhabited the Mary River for nearly 30 years, it wasn't until 1994 that they were recognized as a new species.

There has been a dramatic decrease in their population due to low reproductive rates and increased nest depredation. The Mary River Turtle comes under many threats. Predation of hatchlings occurs by red foxes, wild dogs, and fish, especially when the turtles are in the hatching and juvenile stages of their lives.

Their number one threat is the raiding of their nests by dogs, foxes and goannas. The land around the Mary River has been cleared many times leading to low quality water and a buildup of silt. Invasive plants along the riverbank have also contributed to the lack of reproductive success because they make it difficult for Mary River turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs.

The Mary River Turtle has the ability to camouflage itself in muddy waters and wait for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Their algae covering shell also allows them to remain hidden from predators. This species is currently listed as threatened under Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The international conservation body IUCN lists it as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. It is also listed on the Zoological Society of London's Evolutionaryly Distinct and Globally Endangered list, part of the EDGE of Existence programme.

The Mary River Turtle also secured 30th place on the ZSL Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered list for reptiles. It is Australia's most endangered freshwater turtle species. The Mary River Turtle was the second most endangered freshwater turtle after the western pond turtle of Western Australia.

Mary River turtles were listed among the world's 25 most threatened turtle species by the Turtle Conservation Fund in 2003. Australia's first reptile conservation and non-profit organisation, the Australian Freshwater Turtle Conservation and Research Association, was the first to breed this species in captivity for release into the wild in 2007.

A purpose built hatchery has been constructed along the banks of the Mary River in 2019/2020. This hatchery was built to install nests and is expected to be used in the future to grow the Mary River Turtle population.