On the northern coast of New South Wales, the Manning River Sawshelled Turtle paddles secretively amongst the platypuses. The species is so rarely seen it was declared “Endangered” by the Australian government in 2017. It is one of the regions three endemic turtles, along with the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle (Myuchelys georgesi) and Bell's Sawshelled Turtle (Myuchelys bellii), all of which are Endangered and which are found nowhere else on Earth. Restricted to a single river system, the turtles are extremely vulnerable to habitat loss, predation, lack of genetic diversity, and disease. Invasive species are perhaps the greatest concern. Non-native pigs and foxes routinely destroy and consume nearly every nest, resulting in catastrophic losses every breeding season.
To combat these threats, scientists at Aussie Ark, Australia Reptile Park (Tim Faulkner and Liz Gabriel), Western Sydney University (Ricky Spencer), NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (Andrew Steed), and Global Wildlife Conservation have initiated captive breeding efforts and a head-start program to subsidize wild populations of the Manning River Sawshelled Turtle. The hope is that introducing captive-bred baby turtles will offset the loss of predated nests, and create an assurance colony for the species if a disease outbreak were to occur. The Turtle Conservancy is a new partner in this effort and hopes to explore further collaboration in the field and at the breeding center.