Taree reptile enthusiast Brenton Asquith has something in his loungeroom that nobody else in our region does - a Manning River turtle in a temporary tank.
Two days before Christmas last year Brenton took a call from Aussie Ark director and Australian Reptile Park general manager, Tim Faulkner. Tim asked Brenton whether he could take possession of two of the endangered species for rehabilitation, as they were extremely unwell.
Tim and the staff of Aussie Ark had been on an emergency mission that day in the Manning catchment area, collecting specimens for the Manning River turtle insurance population at the Australian Reptile Park, and assessing the situation brought about by drought and bushfires. The turtle Brenton has in his care was found on that trip.
Brenton jumped at the chance to help out, and drove to Gloucester the next day to pick it up from the local vet. The turtle was emaciated and lethargic.
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Brenton also was given a juvenile Manning River turtle, but unfortunately it died a month later.
On receiving the turtles Brenton kept them in a dark warm tank for a few days.
"It's critical - the quicker you can get it into a stable environment where it feels comfortable, the better. So they were left in there for a couple of days with no lighting, just water and left alone. And then I put the light on. They literally sat on the bottom or swam around a little bit and hid for the first couple of days," Brenton said.
Before long they were were eating fish fillets Brenton had cut up for them, and a few weeks later the bigger one was chasing and eating feeder fish living in the tank.
Now, the remaining turtle is active and putting on weight.
"Its legs are showing some nice fat on them. It's legs were like sticks. And it's active and shedding - doing all the things it should. They are all positive signs," Brenton said.
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In addition to live feed, good temperatures, and clean water ("I've probably gone overboard on the filtration", Brenton said), it also gets regular time outside to warm up in the sun.
It is estimated the turtle will be released back into the river into the same spot it came from in a few months time, once the turtle has recovered sufficiently and the rivers are stable, following the drought and recent flooding.
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