An ambitious project to revive the population of baby Bell's Turtles in the region reached a milestone on Thursday.
With the release of 141 baby turtles into the Roumalla Creek near Uralla, the Turtles Forever program is at its half-way mark.
The staggered releases of the turtles raised in captivity are part of a 10-year project being conducted by UNE environmental science researcher Louise Streeting.
"So far we have helped more than 1500 hatchling turtles join the population," Ms Streeting said.
"Of those, more than 1000 were from nests that we protected on the riverbank, and 533 were from eggs that we incubated and hatched in the laboratory at UNE."
Ms Streeting started a PhD to look at why there were so few young turtles and found feral foxes were raiding more than 95 per cent nests within 24 to 48 hours of the eggs being laid.
Females have to be 20-years-old before they reproduce.
With the aim of creating sustainable turtle populations in the Northern Tablelands, Turtles Forver began with the co-operation of private landowners, who have given researchers access to their properties to protect nests with wire mesh or fox exclusion fencing.
"We are now seeing those hatchlings surviving and flourishing in the wild as two- and three-year-olds. It's been extraordinary to be part of this project and our results provide hope for the future of Bell's Turtles," Ms Streeting said.
Turtles Forever is focusing on four catchments across the Northern Tablelands as the turtles are only found in the Namoi, Gwydir, Severn and Deepwater River systems.
Almost a million dollars has been spent on the program.
"Turtles Forever was funded as one of the Trust's nine Saving our Species Partnerships Grant Projects, which aim to improve the chances of survival for over 30 threatened species in NSW," Environmental Trust project officer Kersten Tuckey said.
"These markers of success, halfway through the partnership grant program, are exciting and a testament to the passion and commitment of our project partners," she said.
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