A shellback comeback: 21 snapping turtles hatched

The NSW Government’s fight to save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle from extinction has received a huge boost after 21 tiny turtles hatched as part of a Taronga Zoo captive breeding program, Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said.

Bellinger River snapping turtle (Myuchelys georgesi). IMAGE CREDIT: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Bellinger River snapping turtle (Myuchelys georgesi). IMAGE CREDIT: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

The turtles began to hatch on 19 January as part of the first ever breeding program for this critically endangered species.

“Taronga Zoo established the breeding program after a newly discovered disease wiped out up to 90 per cent of the local population in 2015,” Ms Pavey said.

“The long-term aim of the breeding program is to raise and release hatchlings back into Bellinger River.”

Australian Registry of Wildlife Health researchers are continuing to investigate the cause of the disease.

“They are also monitoring the remaining turtles and other wildlife in the Bellinger River catchment system,” Ms Pavey said.

A Government emergency response team was formed to investigate and coordinate the rescue of a group of healthy turtles to establish an insurance population.

“There could be as few as 200 Bellinger River Snapping Turtles remaining in the wild, so these hatchlings have a vital role to play in rebuilding this population,” Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.

Weighing 4-5 grams at birth, the hatchlings have begun eating and swimming and are being closely monitored by keepers in a special quarantine facility at Taronga Zoo.