Council program protects endangered Mary River ‘Punk Rocker’ Turtle
  • Tuesday 12 February 2019

The Sunshine Coast community is passionate about turtles, but many people may not know about the Mary River Turtle – an endangered species found nowhere else in the world but the Mary River catchment.

Often referred to as the punk rocker turtle, thanks to the mohawks of moss that sprout from its head, the Mary River Turtle can be found as far north as Mary River tidal barrage near Tiaro and as far south as Cambroon.

The turtle is extremely vulnerable to introduced predators, such as wild dogs, foxes, feral pigs and feral cats, which prey on the turtles and their eggs.

Sunshine Coast Council, in partnership with Tiaro and District Landcare Group, has now implemented a program designed to protect this special creature from predation by feral animal species.

Starting this month, council will be working with 22 participating landholders along the Mary River in a joint effort to protect the turtle by controlling feral animals.

Division 10 Councillor Greg Rogerson said the Mary River Turtle Protection Program had been implemented in response to community concerns.

“In 2018 the Mary River Turtle was assessed as the 29th most endangered reptile in the world and it’s our job do to everything we can to protect it,” Cr Rogerson said.

“The single biggest threat to this turtle’s chances of survival is the predation on nesting sites by the feral animals, particularly foxes.

“We are working in partnership with Fraser Coast Council, Gympie Council, Noosa Council, Tiaro and District Landcare Group and participating landholders along the Mary River in a joint effort to protect our punk rocker turtle.”

Within the Sunshine Coast region, the program is taking place on private land from Belli Park to Conondale. 

Tiaro and District Landcare Group Project Leader, Marilyn Connell said programs such as these were critical to the survival of the Mary River Turtle.

“Since the 1970s, the population of nesting females at Tiaro has plummeted by 95% so it’s fantastic that Sunshine Coast Council have now implemented this program,” Ms Connell said.

“We successfully protected 178 hatchlings this season in the Tiaro region and there are still more to come.

“The efforts of Sunshine Coast Council are really encouraging and together we can make a difference and help save this species from disappearing.”

The program involves reducing feral animal numbers, fencing the nesting banks to reduce cattle trampling and protecting the individual nests from predation.

As with any feral animal control program, areas involved in the program are clearly identified by warning signs placed at property entrances. 

You can find out more about the project on the Tiaro Landcare Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MaryRiverTurtleProjectTiaroLandcare/

If you would like to participate in protecting our wildlife, please contact council on 07 5475 7272.

Found only in the Mary River, the Mary River turtle is listed as endangered under the Queensland Government Nature Conservation Act and the Commonwealth Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The Mary River Turtle is listed as the 29th most endangered reptile species on the plant by the Zoological Society of London EDGE program (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered).

In December 2018, a group of respected international turtle scientists who were concerned about its survival recommended that the Mary River Turtle be up-listed to Critically Endangered.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has just published a provisional recommendation that the Mary River Turtle be up-listed from Endangered to Critically Endangered.

Image: (l-r) Sunshine Coast Council Feral Animal Officer Ben Field, Tiaro and District Landcare Group Project Leader Marilyn Connell, Travis the Mary River Turtle with Martin Fingland from Geckoes Wildlife and Councillor Greg Rogerson.