Manning River Turtle researchers seeking locations

Elusive: The Manning River Helmeted Turtle is considered perhaps the most beautiful turtle in Australia and is very distinctive. Picture: Gary Stephenson
Elusive: The Manning River Helmeted Turtle is considered perhaps the most beautiful turtle in Australia and is very distinctive. Picture: Gary Stephenson

The Manning Valley’s own 55 million-year-old turtle, found only in our river and its catchments, has advocates both locally and outside the valley cheering on its survival.

The Manning River Helmeted Turtle (also known as the Manning River Snapping Turtle and Purvis’ Turtle) was officially declared an endangered species in April 2017.

Following the announcement a small group of concerned citizens formed the Manning River Turtle Conservation Group, the group responsible for the Wingham Winter Solstice Lantern Walk and the school colouring/art competition in June 2017.

Watch what we think is the first underwater footage of the Manning River Turtle (Thank you to Kane Durrant for use of the video): 

The group has since been auspiced by Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services in Wingham and plans are underway for another awareness raising lantern walk and art competition in 2018, at the request of locals who enjoyed the first one.

The MRTCG has also been in regular contact with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and professionals interested in researching the turtle.

Little is known about the population of the turtle as not a lot of research has been done, but since being declared endangered work is in progress to learn more about them.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage data support officer, Andrew Steed, with Kerrie Guppy and Jennifer Granger of the Manning River Turtle Conservation Group, and Mia Granger.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage data support officer, Andrew Steed, with Kerrie Guppy and Jennifer Granger of the Manning River Turtle Conservation Group, and Mia Granger.

OEH in Coffs Harbour have been studying the very similar Bellinger River Turtle, and will now be seeking funding to begin research and establish regular monitoring of the Manning River Turtle.

Once funding is approved, OEH data support officer, Andrew Steed anticipates three researchers, including Dr Bruce Chessman who has previously done some research on the turtle, will get to work finding, tagging, taking swabs and studying the turtles. They are also particularly interested in how vulnerable the Manning River Turtle would be to a virus similar to one that nearly decimated the Bellinger River Turtle population.

However, to undertake this research, they need to find spots where the turtle is located and how to get access to those spots.

“I don’t know what our chances of success are. It’s always a bit of a lottery,” Andrew Steed said.

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So we’re asking you, the community. Have you seen the Manning River Turtle? If so, where have you seen it? 

If you have sighted a Manning River Turtle please email Andrew Steed on Andrew.Steed@environment.nsw.gov.au.

How to identify the Manning River Turtle

  • Short-necked turtle.
  • Brown shell above, but is usually quite bright yellow below, except in large older individuals.
  • Usually a distinct yellow stripe from the angle of the jaws, especially in the young, while the underside of the tail has distinctive yellow markings: a bright yellow stripe from median plastron notch to anus
  • Another stripe on each side of the tail slopes down to also reach the anus; and there is a bright yellow patch under the tip of the tail.
  • Shell above broadly oval with a smooth hind edge.
  • Two ‘barbel’s’ under the chin.
  • A horny ‘helmet’ on it’s head.
  • Habitat preference is for relatively shallow, clear, continuously fast-flowing rivers. 

The turtles are not found in dams, and most likely will not be seen crossing roads.

If you do find what you think might be a Manning River Turtle, please DO NOT handle the turtle.