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#AceNewsDesk – Scientists have discovered several critically endangered turtles in a Queensland waterway for the first time
The Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) found three white-throated snapping turtles in Baffle Creek, 100 kilometres north of Bundaberg, while assessing the waterway for a separate project.
The species had previously only been recorded in the Fitzroy, Mary and Burnett river catchments.
BMRG research director Tom Espinoza said it was “an exciting find”.
“For Baffle [Creek] to have white-throated snapping turtles within it is significant, both for the species and its conservation,” he said.
“It is critically endangered so that means basically the next stage is extinction, so it’s at this really critical stage.
“I think it is great for the species.”
Mr Espinoza said the find was made more exciting by the fact they found two males and one large female.
“If we had found one, that might’ve just been an anomaly or translocation, but to find two males and one female is a significant finding,” he said.
“It means there’s probably more turtles throughout the Baffle catchment and they are a self-sustaining population potentially.”
A bum-breathing turtle
The species is Australia’s largest freshwater turtle and is known as one of its bum-breathing turtles due to its ability to breathe oxygen through its anus.
It is one of four such species in Australia, including the Mary River turtle, the Fitzroy River turtle and Irwin’s turtle.
Mr Espinoza said more studies would be undertaken to determine whether there was a self-sustaining population of white-throated snapping turtles in Baffle Creek and where it came from.
“More comprehensive sampling throughout the catchment to determine how widespread they are is essential,” he said.
“Being critically endangered, the species does have a very low genetic diversity, which affects survivability and population viability into the future.
“So if this population has a unique genetic signature, or has some genetic diversity within it, that’s really important for the species more broadly as well.”
Mr Espinoza said the BMRG would work with other groups to further study the Baffle Creek catchment.
“We’ll look at liaising and talking with all the other management and monitoring organisations that are involved with the species and come together for a bit of a consolidated view on what are the best steps forward,” he said.
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