Historic return of endangered Manning River turtles back to the wild

By AG STAFF October 21, 2022
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Conservation organisation, Aussie Ark, has returned 10 endangered Manning River turtles back to the wild in a world first.

The release is the first of its kind for the program established in 2018 and is hugely significant as these particular turtles were rescued from the nest during the bushfire disaster of 2020, while still in the egg.  

“This has been a long time coming. We have cared for these juveniles for over two years now, and have watched and waited patiently as our river systems recovered from fire, drought and then floods,” said Tim Faulkner, Aussie Ark Managing Director. 

“This is what the program is all about, rescuing an endangered species and getting them back to the wild. Getting to see them swim off into the river is not a site I will soon forget.” 

This group is part of another milestone for the organisation as they were the first to hatch in Aussie Ark’s care. In total, 20 Manning River turtles hatched in March and April 2020 and Aussie Ark is hoping to witness the hatching of additional turtles in the coming months for this year’s breeding season. 

Before the release, Aussie Ark staff monitored the Manning River for months to ensure that the body of water was substantial, clean and flowing. Manning River turtles are restricted to the middle and upper stretches of the Manning River catchment area and are found in relatively shallow, clear, continuously fast-flowing rivers with rocky and sandy substrates.

“It’s been a tricky few years for our wildlife,” said Jake Meney, Head of Reptiles at the Australian Reptile Park. 

“These particular individuals were rescued during one of the worst drought and bushfire disasters our country has seen. Since then, though, their river systems have been hugely impacted by severe floods. It has been critical that we watch and wait patiently before releasing these guys back.”

As the 2019–20 bushfires left the river system with contaminated water and dried parts, it was necessary for Aussie Ark to make sure the water quality of the river was suitable for the species to live in. Food availability and suitable nesting environments were also taken into consideration. Just as the rivers seemed to have recovered La Niña swept through and washed away entire riverbanks. 

Related: School with the Australian Reptile Park – Manning River turtles

Aussie Ark is proud of its first wild translocation of the endangered species, but understands that more must be done. The organisation is eager to see the program develop over the coming years and expand to see the return of hundreds more endangered turtles back to the wild. 

The breeding program for the endangered Manning River turtle is supported by the Australian Reptile Park, Re:wild, WIRES, Glencore, the Turtle Conservancy and Australian Geographic. Support, too, has come from local Manning Valley businesses – Kleinfelder, Manning River Steel, Aus Eco Solutions, Steber international and The Happy Wombat.

You can support this vital work: aussieark.org.au