Environment Rare river turtles struggle to survive

Rare river turtles struggle to survive

Slow and steady may not win the race this time.

That’s the sad conclusion of new research from Western Sydney University focusing on the Murray River system.

Native turtles are now virtually non-existent along the lower reaches in South Australia, according to the study, and their numbers are declining rapidly elsewhere.

Associate Professor Ricky Spencer says the signs are ominous.

“Even in areas where they are abundant, most populations have only older adults, resulting in few babies entering the river,” he says.

“Australia deals with some unique factors leading to a decline in turtle population including introduced predators that ruthlessly destroy most nests each year, disease, road mortality and the fact that we are a dry country and water resources have many competing demands.”

Previous research has recorded declines in turtle numbers of up to 91 per cent in some sections of the Murray, but this is the first systematic study of populations throughout the system.

The results will help inform river management and conservation.

Across Australia, nearly half of all turtle species are listed as vulnerable or endangered.

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