The Mallee region is inhabited by three species of freshwater turtle including, Broad-shelled Turtle (Chelodina expansa), Eastern Long-necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis) and Murray River Turtle (Emydura macquarii). The Broad-shelled and Murray River Turtles are listed as Endangered and Critically Endangered in Victoria due to a range of threats including river regulation but most significantly by the predation of nests by the introduced European Fox (Canis vulpes) and feral Pig (Sus scrofa).
Nest predation is thought to impact over 90% of nests which combined with the low survival rate of hatchlings indicates very few turtles are surviving to adulthood. An aging turtle population with little to no recruitment will eventually lead to local turtle extinctions in future decades as these longlived (>50-year lifespan) animals begin to die-out.
Freshwater turtles are the second largest vertebrates in the Murray River and are critical to the delicate balance of this ecosystem. Turtles eat vast amounts of algae and water plants and scavenge on dead fish, maintaining a healthy aquatic environment for the many other birds, fish, animals and plants that rely on the Murray River for their survival.
By developing the capacity to monitor turtle nesting and identify and protect nests from feral predators, Citizen Scientists will provide valuable data for use in our Environmental Water Management Plans and annual Seasonal Water Proposals.