The Hunter River turtle is unique to the region | Image supplied.
There has been a major breakthrough in efforts to bolster the population of the Hunter River turtle this week.
One of three freshwater species facing imminent extinction in the wild due to increased predation, the Hunter River turtle included in Aussie Ark’s breeding program aimed at increasing their numbers, alongside the Manning River and Bells turtles.
The wildlife organisation’s Conservation Manager Hayley Shute credits a lack of young juveniles in the rivers to predators like feral cats, foxes and even pigs preying on the eggs.
“So what we’re getting is old turtles but no babies going back into the river system because the predators annihilate the eggs,” Ms Shute said.
The breeding program aimed to cut out the impact of predators by mating the turtles in large tanks and safeguarding eggs in a climate-controlled incubators.
This week its been confirmed as a huge triumph with over a hundred eggs laid for the first time in a major step forward.
Ms Shute says over the next 8 weeks the clutch will be kept safe at the Australian Reptile Park on the Central Coast until they hatch and can be re-wilded.
“They’re safely in the incubator and soon we’ll have a hundred little turtles going back into their native river systems where they belong,” Ms Shute said.
Australian Reptile Park Operations Manager Billy Collett collaborated closely with Aussie Ark and Conservation Ark on the program and said it took immeasurable dedication to coax the “sensitive creatures” to mate and lay.
“Literally years have gone into this, blood, sweat and tears,” Mr Collett said.