University of New England welcomes a clutch of baby Bell's Turtles to the lab

TURTLE TIME: One of the Bell's Turtle's that recently hatched at the University of New England. Photo: Madeline Link.
TURTLE TIME: One of the Bell's Turtle's that recently hatched at the University of New England. Photo: Madeline Link.

POKING their heads out of the sand, Bell’s Turtles instinctively sprint for the river.

But, not many of them are getting there.

University of New England environmental science researcher Louise Streeting said 90 per cent of nests are being raided within a day of eggs being laid.

“We’re protecting the endangered Bell’s Turtle,” she said.

“The first part is trying to bypass the predation and build juvenile numbers in the wild by inducing female turtles to lay eggs – incubating the eggs and raising those hatchlings before releasing them into the wild.”

TURTLE TIME: University of New England environmental science research student Louise Streeting is breeding the Bell's Turtles hatchlings. The turtles are endangered as a result of foxes raiding their nests. Photo: Madeline Link.

TURTLE TIME: University of New England environmental science research student Louise Streeting is breeding the Bell's Turtles hatchlings. The turtles are endangered as a result of foxes raiding their nests. Photo: Madeline Link.

The turtles are native to the Northern Tablelands and are only found in western flowing rivers.

The most heroic turtle of the bunch is Nemo, a baby turtle who’s egg was damaged by foxes in the wild.

Researchers thought it was unlikely it would survive, but now it’s thriving along with a number of it’s brothers and sisters.

Ms Streeting said it’s the first trial that’s been conducted.

“I get to hang out with gorgeous baby turtles, that’s a selling point but of course the aim of the project is to conserve an endangered species,” she said.

Of the naturally born turtles, more than 100 made it back to the river.

In the lab, 15 turtles were induced and 274 eggs laid.

Of those more than 100 have hatched and are happy and healthy.

The plan is to release them back into the wild in a month.

Researchers are appealing to property owners to help out.

“We are keen to recruit property owners who have Bell’s Turtles in rivers running through their properties,” Ms Streeting said.

“If people are keen to help out we’d love them to contact Northern Tablelands Local Land Services or the University of New England.”

TURTLEY WILD: University of New England environmental science researcher Louise Streeting and PhD candidate Geoff Hughes.

TURTLEY WILD: University of New England environmental science researcher Louise Streeting and PhD candidate Geoff Hughes.

PhD candidate Geoff Hughes has studied turtles for the last 12 years.

He’s looking at the conservation issues in the wild.

“In lab conservation measures are great but they’re usually very expensive and time consuming,” he said.

“They’re not as effective as if we could actually help improve conditions in the field and let the turtles do things themselves.”

The turtles can live for up to 40 years and grow to around 20 to 30 centimetres.

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