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Rare Manning River Turtle endangered

Discussion in 'Australian Freshwater Turtles in the News' started by Craig, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. Craig

    Craig Administrator
    Staff Member Platinum Level Supporter

    Aug 8, 2001
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    Something I predicted many years ago in 2011 before Bruce Chessman in 2013 in my article- Craig Why don't the authorities listen when you warn them? https://www.australianfreshwaterturtles.com.au/threads/shellshocked.8241/#post-65807

    Julia Driscoll

    Rare Manning River Turtle endangered

    Alarm bells are ringing for the future of an extremely rare and endangered turtle that is found only in the upper and middle tributaries of the Manning River.

    However, chances are if you ask residents of the Valley and its upper tributaries if they know of the turtle, the vast majority would say they had never heard of it.

    There are seven species of freshwater turtles in NSW, and two of them are found nowhere else in the world.

    One of these is the Manning River Turtle, also known as the Manning River Helmeted or Snapping Turtle, and Purvis’ Short-necked Turtle.

    The turtle is nearly identical to the Bellinger River Turtle, with its distinctive yellow markings and two barbells under the chin. Initially it was thought to be a close relative of the Bellinger turtle however more recent genetic testing has revealed that the two species are genetically distinct.

    The Manning River Turtle is not to be confused with the prolific Eastern long-necked turtle, which is often seen crossing our roads.

    “The Purvis’ turtle is very distinct from other species of turtle and as such is a species of considerable conservation value,” said Professor Arthur Georges PhD from the University of Canberra.

    “Little is known of this species and its full distribution in the river”.
    Manning Valley local Jennifer Granger found a Manning River Turtle south west of Wingham in November, 2016. Photo: Amylia Eddie.

    Extremely ancient
    Purvis' turtle: Watercolour and gouache painting by wildlife artist Peter Schouten AM, who was previously a technical illustrator within the school of zoology at the University of New South Wales.

    Peter Schouten AM, who in 2016 became a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to wildlife illustration and the preservation and documentation of national history, says the Manning River Turtle is more than 55 million years old.

    “It’s much, much more ancient than the Bellinger turtle. It’s actually a living fossil,” Peter said.

    The Bellinger River Turtle population was decimated in 2015 due to a disease and in a biosecurity bulletin issued by the NSW Department of Primary Industries in September 2015, it was stated that it was “important to heighten surveillance” in the Manning River Turtle.

    Thankfully, to date the disease has not not been found in the Manning Rivers Turtle population. But concern is high within the zoological and ecological community that the species is under threat of extinction.

    In September 2016, the NSW Scientific Committee established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 published a preliminary determination to list the Manning River Turtle as an endangered species.

    The turtle previously had no conservation status, as it has been poorly studied and the exact size of the population is not known. The preliminary determination said a study in 1998 “noted that the Manning River Helmeted Turtle is more abundant than the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle … however more recently the abundance of Manning River Helmeted Turtles appears to have declined dramatically”.

    It’s much, much more ancient than the Bellinger turtle. It’s actually a living fossil. - Peter Schouten AM

    This is supported by a study Dr Bruce Chessman (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage ecologist) in 2013 in which he reported that they only found a few turtles in three of six sites, and none of those were juveniles.

    Predation by foxes, wild pigs, dogs, birds, goannas and fish, along with degradation of habitat, human interference and poaching are cited as reasons for the decline in the turtle population.

    “Their ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of adults caused by disease, poaching or other causes is likely to be limited,” the NSW Scientific Committee Preliminary Determination found.

    Another significant threat to the turtle species is interbreeding with and competition from the Murray River turtle / Macquarie Turtle, which is also found in our rivers.
  2. Craig

    Craig Administrator
    Staff Member Platinum Level Supporter

    Aug 8, 2001
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    My Response sent to the Media

    Re: The endangered Manning River Turtle/ Purvis' Turtle Flaviemys purvisi.


    Hi, my name is Craig Latta and I have been running a not-for-profit animal welfare charity for Australian Freshwater Turtles for over 15 years.

    In 2011 I contacted the Wingham Chronicle regarding a story detailing my concerns over the apparent large reduction in numbers of the Manning River turtle since my previous searches from 1999 to 2007, when numbers of this unique species were found to be plentiful in all areas that I had checked. I found dozens of Manning River turtles including hatchlings, juveniles, sub-adults and adults in all areas that I checked in the Manning, Nowendoc and Barnard Rivers during visits from 1999 to 2007.

    In 2011 the situation looked very bleak for the Manning River turtle as all known areas that I had found large numbers of this species had all but disappeared and I hoped my story would convince the authorities to take an in depth look at protecting this fading species.

    In 2009 I also discovered large numbers of a non-native species of freshwater turtles called the Macquarie River/ Murray River turtle, Emydura macquarii macquarii, and sent DNA samples to Professor Arthur Georges of The University of Canberra to be analysed. The pet industry has a lot to answer for as it has contributed added pressure on endemic species like the Manning River turtle and many others, particularly throughout NSW and QLD. Unwanted pet Emydura macquarii macquarii freshwater turtles that have be released for reasons including outgrowing their tanks, as they grow very fast in captivity. Some escape or their owners have simply lost interest in them and unfortunately they have found their way into waterways that they don't belong in. Here they can outcompete and outbreed other endemic species. This is comparable to the Manning River turtles losing vital habitat and therefore the situation with the non-endemic species needs to be addressed, as any other 'fix it' programmes will be just 'Band Aid' solutions.

    Freshwater turtles cease breeding during drought, food shortages and when conditions are not optimal and they become stressed. A larger species of freshwater turtle invading their territory and outcompeting for food may be all that is required for the Manning River turtle to cease breeding.

    There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that male Emydura macquarii macquarii also interbreed and attempt to interbreed with female Manning River turtles. (pers.comm. Dr Arthur Georges)
    I have also witnessed Emydura macquarii macquarii attempting to breed with Myuchelys georgesi.

    To date only one person has contacted me regarding the article outlining my concerns with these beautiful and very unique species, Flaviemys purvisi, and that was from a concerned local resident.

    Six years later and not much has actually been done unfortunately to address the issues other than the species being recommended for a conservation status change from data deficient to Endangered.

    One other thing, two barbels on the underside of the chin is not an identifying feature of this species. The invasive species Macquarie River turtle / Murray River turtle Emydura macquarii macquarii also has 2 barbels under the chin. The barbels in the photo below have worn down considerably.

    Photo attached and labelled Macquarie/Murray

    Kind regards,

    Craig Latta
    Public Officer
    Australian freshwater Turtles
    AFT LGE Vistaprint Banner800.jpg
  3. Aussiepride83

    Aussiepride83 Administrator
    Staff Member

    Aug 18, 2012
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    Having observed these guys intently in captivity now for a few of years, it's entirely understandable how this species could easily be outcompeted by a much larger, more aggressive and assertive species of Emydura.
    The Manning River turtle in comparison is, in my opinion, reserved, quiet, placid, shy and really timid. Stress imposed on this species in the wild by introduced Emydura would be a deathnail in their coffin!


    #4 Aussiepride83, Mar 9, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2017