Saving the Mary River turtle

This Australian endangered species is on the verge of extinction and you can make a difference.
By Rebecca Baker May 10, 2013 Reading Time: < 1

A species on the verge of extinction, the Mary River turtle, or penny turtle, is at its lowest numbers ever. Found only in south-eastern Queensland’s Mary River, this turtle’s future is uncertain. Population numbers are dropping and we need your help to save Australia’s largest freshwater turtle.

Biology of the Mary River turtle

These turtles have an enormous tail that contains a cavity lined with gill-like structures, used for extracting oxygen from water. This unusual feature allows the turtle to remain submerged for long periods, and has earned it, along with several other turtle species, the title ‘bum-breathers’.

Turtle Threats

Thousands of tiny hatchlings were sold as ‘penny turtles’ throughout Australia during the 1960s and ’70s. Back then, no-one knew they belonged to a species found in only one of the world’s rivers. Other human impacts have reduced population numbers, including decades of cattle grazing, tree felling and pollution along the river’s banks. Dams have also blocked the natural flow of water to the area.

Today, the biggest threat to population recovery is the plundering of nests by dogs, foxes and goannas. Invasive plants also dominate the river’s sandy banks, making it difficult for the Mary River turtle to lay its eggs. 

Tiaro & District Landcare Group

This volunteer community organisation aims to assist in nest protection, support new scientific research, increase public awareness and raise much needed funds for the Mary River turtle. You can help them by donating online and in-store, or even by lending a hand and volunteering! For more information on how to volunteer, visit