Barrington Tops based conservation organisation Aussie Ark has stepped up to help save threatened freshwater turtles, launching a crowdfunding campaign to "Save Our Turtles".
The funds raised will be used to create two state of the art facilities at the Australian Reptile Park to house threatened Hunter River and Bells turtles in an effort to bolster species numbers.
This is not Aussie Ark's first rodeo, the not-for-profit conservation organisation already works with the endangered Manning River turtle and has established a breeding facility for an insurance population of the species, also at the Australian Reptile Park.
Since September 2019, the east coast of Australia has been ravaged by fire. More than five million hectares of land has been decimated, which has had catastrophic effect for the Hunter River turtle habitat, leaving blackened and destroyed ecosystems in its wake.
These bushfires, coupled with the worst drought in recorded history, have meant rivers have stopped flowing.
Turtles in search of deeper water are susceptible to road strike and are at even further risk of predation. Feral foxes destroy nest sites, eating both the eggs, and mother turtles whilst laying the eggs.
Our turtles are simply disappearing.
"Australian freshwater turtles are in danger of disappearing. New South Wales alone has two endemic turtles found nowhere else on earth and both are endangered (the Manning River turtle and the Bellinger River turtle)," Aussie Ark president Tim Faulkner said.
"We couldn't not do anything. This crowdfunding campaign will help us raise the much-needed funds to help save these unsung Aussie heroes."
The Hunter River turtle, a subspecies of the Murray River turtle, is found only in the Hunter River in NSW. Likewise, the Bell's turtle is found in only three river systems in NSW and one in Queensland. They are both in real danger of disappearing forever.
It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of their river systems dried up over the past six months due to catastrophic conditions. If this wasn't bad enough, surviving turtles that moved in search of water were at greater risk of heat, starvation, road strike and predation from foxes.
Aussie Ark staff in the field have discovered over 100 deceased Hunter River turtles alone and relocated an additional 150 specimens that were only days away from perishing.
Australia's waterways need turtles in order to survive and thrive. Turtles act as natures vacuums and are imperative in maintaining our pristine waterways.
You can support Aussie Arks campaign to "Save Our Turtles" at www.pozible.com/project/saving-our-turtles
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.