Abu Dhabi Prince helps save near-extinct turtle


The critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle has new hope thanks to a grant from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. 

The grant is allowing a Western Sydney University PhD student to expand her research into a mysterious disease wiping out the local turtle population.

PhD student Kristen Petrov is currently completing research into the deadly disease that was found to be killing off Bellinger River Snapping Turtles in early 2015.

The species is currently listed as critically endangered after the disease all but wiped out the population, with the once thriving community now reduced to a handful of surviving juveniles. .

"I'm researching the recovery of the species and trying to find out how to bring the species back from the brink."

"The grant will expand what we can do. We can purchase equipment that can broaden our research such as radio transmitters - which are expensive - will definitely help us," says Petrov.

Dr Ricky Spencer from the School of Science and Health says the health of the turtle population is often indicative of the health of the river's ecosystem.

"It gives us a window into the health of the entire ecosystem around the Bellinger River, and suggests something is very wrong," says Dr Spencer.

Dr Spencer says the grant money will be going towards Kristen's research to better understand what happened to the turtles and to understand the disease

"We're working with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and Taronga Zoo to try and develop a vaccine as well as work out how to repopulate the species."

The turtles only exist along a 25km stretch of the Bellinger River with original population estimates between 1,500-4,500 individuals.

The Mohamed Bin Zayed Fund was set up in 2008 to provide grants to conserve threatened and endangered species worldwide. More information can be found here.


11 August 2016

Elliott Richardson - Media Assistant