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Lifting the shell on endangered Manning River turtles

Researchers have captured the world’s first images of endangered Manning River turtles mating in the wild as part of ramped-up monitoring work uncovering never-before-seen clues about their lives.

The ground-breaking new data will help scientists pinpoint where populations are located, how they are faring in our rivers and how water management decisions impact their health and lifecycles.

Earlier this year, we deployed survey teams across 17 sites along waterways near Taree and Gloucester to keep tabs on turtles using cutting-edge Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) technology.

These are state-of-the-art underwater cameras attached to metal frames containing bait. They attract and record creatures who call the river home, including turtles, fish, eels, platypus and shrimp.

This approach allows scientists to observe and track animals more closely without disturbing or capturing them, getting an unprecedented look at their underwater environments.

Researchers recorded 29 endangered Manning River turtles alongside 35 Eastern longneck turtles, 25 Murray River turtles, 1,627 native fish from 12 different species, 26 introduced fish from 3 different species, and 387 shrimp.

They were astonished to capture video footage of Manning River turtles mating – never-before-seen on camera in the wild.

The discovery sheds light on the elusive species’ behaviours and lifecycle, which will help scientists in their ongoing conservation efforts and better inform how river management decisions can best support our native wildlife.

The work complements other monitoring and conservation work being carried out by the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water’s Saving Our Species program and Mid Coast Council helping to fill in survey gaps and create a larger body of data accessible by multiple government agencies and scientific teams.

The results will be published in the Department’s annual Environmental Outcomes Monitoring and Research Report and will help us evaluate the Lower North Coast water sharing plan in 2029 to support healthier river habitats and ensure our water management rules are appropriate.

The project is part of our ongoing research into water-dependent species living in NSW rivers and waterways.

To learn more visit surface water.

NSW DCCEEW Executive Director Water Knowledge, Mitchell Isaacs, said:

“Capturing the world’s first footage of endangered Manning River turtles mating in the wild is a remarkable find, and it couldn’t have been done without incredible BRUV technology.

“This cutting-edge gear will help scientists continue to study native wildlife but from a turtle’s eye view, giving us vital insights into their behaviours and habitat and how they’re affected by river health and connectivity.

“These freshwater turtles are a beautiful and rare species only found in a small pocket of coastal NSW, but they’re proving vital in helping us unlock more sustainable and healthier ecosystems.

“We still don’t know exactly how long they can live for, but it’s likely to be longer than 40 years if conditions are good. They help boost water quality and cycle nutrients throughout the river by scavenging for food.

“Learning more about these amazing creatures, including tracking their behaviours, migration patterns and lifecycles, will help us better manage the rivers they call home, and help us better understand how we can share water to benefit everyone.”

Endangered turtle mate.
Researchers have captured the world’s first images of endangered Manning River turtles mating.