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Spare A Thought For These Ancient Creatures On World Turtle Day, 23 May

Blog Post - Spare a thought for these ancient creatures on World Turtle Day, 23 May

Across Australia, Turtles are declining at an alarming rate and as a result, our marine ecosystem is facing a significant amount of pressure. Turtles play a major role in river ecosystems due to their impact on water quality, biological diversity and general river health but there are several significant threats to their survival including commercial fishing, loss of nesting habitat and climate change.

Both marine and freshwater species are thought to be at risk of extinction - compared to 40 years ago, a decline of over 70% in the number of turtles has been seen. Currently, three of the six marine species (Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley) occurring in Australian waters are listed as Endangered, with the rest (Green, Hawksbill and Flatback) listed as Vulnerable. In addition to this, the population of three native freshwater species of Murray River Turtles has dropped by more than 90% over the past 40 years.

World Turtle Day was created to celebrate turtles and tortoises, as well as to shine a spotlight on the care, conservation and human action that can be taken to help preserve them. (Turtles live in the water nearly all the time, while tortoises dwell on land. Australia has no native land tortoises). Around the world, over 40% of turtle species are at risk of extinction, making them the most vulnerable group of animals to inhabit the earth.

According to Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW) CEO Ian Darbyshire, “Turtles have plodded through 220 million years of natural selection and have emerged as a great evolutionary survivor. It is human intervention that has caused the dramatic decline in the Turtles occupying the Murray River and without dramatic intervention these native species will be extinct by the end of the 21st century”.

FNPW has joined forces with several project partners to support a three-year research program focused on the prevention of the decline in turtle species in the Murray River. “The Murray River plays a critical role in the livelihood and wellbeing of millions of Australians and wildlife alike, and is a resource of social, economic and environmental value. If this issue is not managed, these reptiles will die out, directly affecting the ecology of the Murray River”, said Mr. Darbyshire.

There are a few simple things we can all do to help protect turtles:

  • appropriately dispose of your rubbish
  • collect litter on or near the waterways
  • when boating, travel slowly over seagrass beds
  • report people engaging in illegal netting or trapping
  • join your local animal rescue and care group
  • report sick or injured turtles to your National Parks office

You can also support FNPW’s vital conservation work by making a donation at www.fnpw.org.au /donate.

 

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