Reef Aid

Protecting a vulnerable freshwater species

By protecting the nests of the vulnerable Fitzroy River Turtle, we are providing thousands of tiny hatchlings with a safer passage into adulthood every year.

The Challenge

The Fitzroy River Turtle is a native freshwater species found nowhere else on earth. Every year between September to December, the turtles emerge from the water to nest on the river’s steep, sandy banks, laying between 16-20 tiny, oval-shaped eggs in a chamber beneath the sand. The hatchlings measure no bigger than a 20-cent piece.

Without protection, almost 100% of these vulnerable “bum-breathing” (they breathe through gills in their cloaca) turtle nests are typically lost to predation by native and introduced species which has resulted in an aging population. Disturbance to nesting sites, degradation of habitat, natural events and land management practices also pose major threats to the survival of the unique reptile.

The Solution

To lend the tiny turtles a helping hand, we have been working in partnership with the Fitzroy Basin Association Inc. and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science to monitor the population for the past 15 years, observing their movement patterns, nesting locations and population distribution across the Fitzroy Basin.

Every nesting season, our local project officer and volunteers brave the river’s resident crocodiles six days a week to locate and protect the turtle nests by covering them with a protective mesh until they are ready to hatch.

Since the project began, over 5,000 new turtle hatchlings have entered the water, boosting the river’s population.

Future funding opportunities will facilitate further research to understand the habitat requirements, key threats, and management and population demographics of the Fitzroy River Turtle and the White-throated Snapping Turtle (Elseya albagula) –  two unique and significant species in our region.

We are committed to the conservation of these special turtles, engaging with local communities and organisations to establish strong working partnerships to achieve our goal.