E-news Issue 6
Monday, 09 August 2021
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Drs Mariana and Hamish Campbell want to track the movements of Mary River turtles to help save this endangered species.
Drs Mariana and Hamish Campbell want to track the movements of Mary River turtles to help save this endangered species.

Tags to track and preserve Mary River turtles

Researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU) are trying to find a solution to help recover the Mary River turtle population by tracking their movements with an acoustic device.

Drs Mariana and Hamish Campbell from CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods have undertaken a field exercise in Queensland, where they installed small acoustic devices on turtles released into the water.

Each device contains a unique code that changes once activated by the enzyme in the predator’s stomach if the turtle gets eaten.

They suspect most of the turtles are predated by oversized catfish native to the Mary River and the population of freshwater turtles is almost depleted.

“Through our research, we hope to find the culprit for this population decline and a solution to preserve the population,” Dr Mariana Campbell said.

“We hope to develop a solution to help recover the freshwater turtle population, which can be applied to other species in Australia and around the world.”

The research is a collaboration between CDU, SunWater water authority and the local community group Tiaro & District Landcare Group and is a long-term collaboration with local conservation groups and the community.

There is a local nest protection program that aims to preserve the number of turtles, but Dr Campbell’s research suggests the hatchlings have low survival rates once in the water.

“We are trying to figure out what is happening to the turtles once they are in the water, also which head-starting program is more viable,” Dr Mariana Campbell said.

An array of listening devices has been installed underwater to actively track the turtles’ locations. If a turtle gets eaten by a catfish, the catfish can be tracked down and caught if needed.

The research will help us understand the diminishing Mary River turtle population and find ways to revive the species.