The Manning River Helmeted Turtle was severely impacted by the disastrous 2019 bushfires, but it’s set for a significant boost through new funding that is dedicated to helping the species recover.
The Australian Government recently announced a grant of $143,500 for MidCoast Council through its Bushfire Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat Community Grants.
The Manning River helmeted turtle is confined to the freshwater reaches of the Manning River Catchment and is of significant value to the Manning community.
“Over 25 per cent of the creek habitat of the turtle was burnt in the 2019 bushfires and sadly the Manning River helmeted turtle is already at risk from threats such as loss of habitat, feral pests and disease outbreaks,” explained MidCoast Council’s Senior Ecologist, Mat Bell.
“High intensity bushfires can further threaten this species through impacts to water quality, food sources, loss of shelter habitat and increased vulnerability to predators.
“The funding from the Australian Government assists us to deliver management interventions at priority sites in and near fire-affected landscapes.”
Funding will be administered by a project team involving Council, Hunter Local Land Services, MidCoast to Tops Landcare and the Manning River Turtle Group.
The project will involve local landholders at priority sites to implement measures that will have direct benefit on the long-term survival of the Manning River helmeted turtle. In particular, works will enhance the condition of nesting, refuge and high-density sites in the Nowendoc River catchment.
The funding will also provide for stock fencing, habitat restoration, pest animal controls and other in-stream habitat enhancement works.
Importantly, the project will provide for a community Water Watch program to monitor the health and condition of the environment and promote the community’s involvement in observing and reporting this species.
Clare Rourke of the Manning River Turtle Group said the project will integrate on-ground works that aid the long term survival of the Manning River helmeted turtle with citizen science to help monitor the health of the population and its habitat.
“Our group is very pleased to be involved and we’re grateful for the support from the Australian Government. The project will have many benefits, not just for the turtles, but for other species impacted by the 2019 bushfires, including the platypus,” said Clare.
Council is also looking to engage with a research partner to help identify the sites that are the highest priority for protection enhancement work. This analysis will help direct the funding to the sites of greatest benefit.
“This funding gives us an opportunity to make a positive difference for this species on the ground. Firstly, to address some of the impacts of the 2019 bushfires and secondly to help secure the survival of this species in the wild .”
The project will run from now until March 2022.