There's new life at Aussie Ark in the Barrington Tops.
In the wake of catastrophic bushfires and the ongoing severe drought, ten tiny Manning River turtles have hatched at the conservation facility.
Aussie Ark says the eggs started to hatch earlier this month after being collected from the wild due to the imminent risk of predation from foxes, as well as being susceptible to being trampled by roaming cattle. Their hatching, in part, marks the launch of the first-ever conservation breeding program for the Manning River turtle, a project supported by Global Wildlife Conservation and the Turtle Conservancy.
Aussie Ark President Tim Faulkner said of the hatching, “Because Manning River turtles were endangered before the fires, we started planning for the conservation breeding program three years ago and happened to have the facilities ready for these emergency rescue efforts when the fires began,”
“As amazing as this is, I’ll consider the project a major success when we’re returning 200-300 juveniles back to the river system each year, but this is a truly joyful way to kick off those efforts after so much heartache.”
Aussie Ark added that "a proactive insurance program mitigates one of the major threats to Australia’s turtles; introduced feral foxes and cats that feast extensively on laying females and turtle eggs. Unfortunately, turtles that do hatch successfully are then subject to habitat destruction and disease, often the result of cattle feces that end up the water in which they live, especially during drier times."
The baby Manning River turtles will be monitored very closely and eventually they'll be moved into a nursery of specialised tanks where they will live for about four months before being moved into smaller ponds.
After that, Aussie Ark will determine how many turtles stay in the breeding program and how many are released into the wild, fitted with radio transmitters so they can be tracked, where they were found.
This is only the beginning with 20 more eggs due to hatch in early April and there are plans to collect further adult specimens in the coming weeks and months.
Aussie Ark has committed to saving the Manning River turtle from extinction, and even more recently have committed to saving another two species of turtles under threat.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help secure the future of the Hunter River and Bell’s turtles. You can support this project by clicking here; bit.ly/AAsaveourturtles
Image credit: Aussie Ark