Rare snapping turtle given helping hand in fight to boost numbers

23 April 2021

A rare snapping turtle estimated to have lost more than 70 per cent of its juvenile and sub-adult population over the past 20 years, has been given a helping hand through a national a recovery plan.

The White-throated snapping turtle found only in the Fitzroy, Mary and Burnett rivers in south-east Queensland was listed as critically endangered in 2014.

At that time, a conservation advice was developed to guide immediate recovery and threat abatement activities to ensure the preservation of the newly listed species.

This recovery plan enhances those efforts and harnesses the contributions of all relevant stakeholders to ensure the long-term survival of the species in the wild.

Although the exact number of turtles in each of the three river catchments is unknown, research shows that the species’ breeding rates have decreased which is exacerbated by the species requiring 15-20 years to reach breeding maturity.

The principal threat to this turtle is the loss of eggs and hatchlings due to predation by feral foxes, dogs, pigs and cats, and native predators such as goannas and water rats, as well as the trampling of nests by cattle.

Studies have shown that a single fox can destroy more than 95 per cent of freshwater turtle nests in one area alone.

Add to this, in-stream barriers which obstruct the turtles’ movement and result in injury and death during over-topping and water releases; degradation of habitat and water quality; a changing climate; and fishing and boating activities, then it becomes very apparent that the species needs extra protection.

The goal of this recovery plan is to achieve a resilient wild population and to put in place long-term management arrangements that ensure a healthy population structure and a healthy habitat for the White-throated snapping turtle.

In addition to the recovery plan, the Australian Government through the Regional Land Partnerships Program provided a grant of $88,600 to Fitzroy Basin Association to manage feral predators and provide protection to the nest sites in the Rockhampton district.

The White-throated snapping turtle recovery plan can be found at: National Recovery Plan for the White-throated Snapping Turtle (Elseya albagula).