March 24, 2020
Many Australian animals are both unusual and exist only on this one continent. One such creature is the Bellinger River snapping turtle, which were the unfortunate victims of a viral outbreak in 2015 that wiped out 90% of their population which is localized to one small area in New South Wales. Thankfully researchers at the Taronga Zoo have been able to intervene.
The zoo was able to set up a captive breeding program designed to help boost numbers of healthy turtles that can then be released into the environment. Unfortunately for this critically endangered species there is as yet no known cure for the virus that drastically reduced their numbers. However, increasing the number of healthy individuals in the population will enable the population to continue to breed and increase their numbers alongside the efforts of the captive breeding program.
The released turtles are monitored both tracking devices, as well as occasional physical check ups to ensure they are healthy and showing no sign of contact with the deadly virus. The Bellinger River snapping turtles are known to play an important role in the local environment, stabilizing food webs, redistributing nutrients in the environment and are good indicators of the overall biological health of the local environment. This breeding program is going a long way to ensure the continued existence of this rare turtle and safeguard the biodiversity of the Bellinger River.
Source: The Guardian
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