Twelve endangered Manning River helmeted turtle eggs found in the wild have been rescued and relocated to the Australian Reptile Park for incubation.
The eggs were found in a nest on banks of the Manning River in January. The nest was immediately protected due to the imminent risk of predation.
The Manning River had stopped flowing due to drought and the nest was laid below the normal water line. Because of the forecast for heavy rainfall to come, the decision was made to remove the eggs as the nest would have gone underwater should the start to flow again. It proved to be a good decision, as rain on the weekend of February 8-9 caused flooding of the Manning River.
Once hatched, some of the hatchlings will be the first turtles to be released back into the wild, while some will join Aussie Ark's insurance population of Manning River turtles off exhibit at the Australian Reptile Park on the Central Coast.
Aussie Ark staff alongside president Tim Faulkner, collected the first wild Manning River turtles to begin the development of the insurance population. At the time, more than 30 turtles were rescued and relocated to larger waterholes. The first three turtles, a male, a female and a juvenile, were relocated to the state-of-the-art facility at the Reptile Park.
"These are an amazing animal and luckily expert teams have already begun moving them to safer locations in larger waterholes to support their survival through this dreadful drought," NSW Minister for Energy and the Environment said.
The turtles will soon be joined by other individuals, in the hopes that the waterways in the Barrington Tops and the Manning catchment will soon be abundant with Manning River turtles once more.
Related reading: Meet Manny the Manning River turtle: the first of her kind
"We took notice two years ago, and now catastrophic events have nearly wiped their entire population," Aussie Ark president, Tim Faulkner said.
"Manning River turtles are vital in maintaining river systems within the Barrington Tops region. Without them aquatic ecosystems tumble."
Freshwater turtles are natures cleaners. They are critical to our freshwater ecosystems, cleaning up river systems, keeping aquatic vegetation in balance, and maintaining the stunning waterways.
"This is what we worked for. This is just the first step in the right direction for this unique, Australian turtle. We could not have done it without our partners and supporters."