In early 2015 Bellingen became international news when a unique species found only along the Bellinger River catchment system had its numbers decimated.
The Bellinger River Snapping Turtle’s small population of 1200-4000 turtles was dealt a devastating blow when hundreds of turtles were found dying from a newly discovered disease that caused severe internal organ damage and blindness.
An emergency response team from Taronga Zoo and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage was formed to investigate the event and coordinate the rescue of a group of healthy turtles to establish an insurance population, and, subsequently, 16 turtles were placed in quarantine before moving to a purpose-built facility at Taronga.
This year, as part of a NSW Government captive breeding program, 31 tiny turtles have emerged from their eggs, joining the 22 turtles that hatched in 2017.
The long-term aim of the breeding program is to raise and release hatchlings back into the Bellinger River, while researchers from Taronga’s Australian Registry of Wildlife Health continue to investigate the disease, and also monitor the health of turtles remaining in the river, the State Government continues to help the cause in a multitude of ways.
Last month, Bellingen Land Care received $100,000 for its Upper Bellinger River Aquatic and Terrestrial Habitat Connections project.
It’s from the NSW Environmental Trust’s Restoration and Rehabilitation Grant Program and it will fund;
The condition of the riparian zone along the upper Bellinger River adjacent to the New England National Park and Bellinger River Nature Reserve.
Improved riparian habitat will support the recovery of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle and a number of other threatened species in the area.
Encourage landholders to better manage stock and undertake bush regeneration activities to encourage natural regeneration. Regeneration works will be supplemented by planting.
The State Government understands and supports local community groups, who have invaluable knowledge and passion for their local area – these grants support on-ground works to make a real and lasting contribution.
As well as helping the Bellinger River system, there are many more habitat and ecosystem restoration projects underway for the Mid North Coast, including the protection of Littoral Rainforest by removal of invasive weeds around South West Rocks.
This $98,648 Dune Care project focuses on the removal of highly invasive and difficult to control weed species that have emerged in the dune areas after the removal of Bittou Bush, Lantana and other primary weed species.
The local team will target Glory Lily, Asparagus and Turkey Rhubarb both of which are difficult to control and includes work in 10ha of previously untreated dunes.
For more details and project descriptions visit: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/grants/restoration.htm