Ded­i­cated for­mer ranger keeps watch

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Erica Mur­ree erica.mur­ree@cnbtimes.com.au

FOR­MER Par­adise Dam ranger Greg Aberdein is keen to con­tinue his re­search into the en­dan­gered elseya al­bag­ula, a fresh­wa­ter tur­tle species also know as the snap­ping tur­tle.

Mr Aberdein has a per­mit is­sued by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage and will be one of a few do­ing the study.

When the Par­adise Dam Tur­tle Hatch­ery was built and funded by the co-or­di­na­tor gen­eral, it was world class. But, af­ter fund­ing ceased, it is now empty, all equip­ment trans­ferred to Bund­aberg and Mr Aberdein was made re­dun­dant al­most 12 months ago.

When the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency con­ducted a two-year study into fresh­wa­ter tur­tles in the Bur­nett River it found there were only 200 tur­tles of an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Mr Aberdein said the elseya al­bag­ula tur­tle had to be 20 years old be­fore they could breed.

“The Par­adise Dam Tur­tle Hatch­ery was es­tab­lished as a site where eggs could be in­cu­bated safely and the hatch­lings then re­leased back into their habi­tat,” he said.

“Too many baby tur­tles in the wild didn’t get hatch be­cause of preda­tors like foxes, pigs, goan­nas and wa­ter rats. Since those first clutches of baby tur­tles hatched in Oc­to­ber 2006, 2000 had been re­leased back into the Bur­nett River Catch­ment. Only 1% of them will reach adult­hood.”

But what Mr Aberdein has found since the Aus­tralia Day floods has him wor­ried. “The river banks have changed and there are no trees left where the tur­tles used to nest,” he said. “They are com­ing out and turn­ing around with­out lay­ing so it doesn’t look promis­ing this year. If I can lo­cate a nest on the river I will put an elec­tric fence around the nest to pro­tect it the best I can.”

Mr Aberdein said it was a worse sit­u­a­tion now than when he started.

“We need more re­search to see what dam­age the floods caused not only in 2013 but in 2010,” he said.

Mr Aberdein, who is self-funded, would love to in­ves­ti­gate the head­wa­ters of Degilbo Ck where only one tur­tle has been found.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

The en­dan­gered Elseya Al­bag­ula Tur­tle or Snap­ping Tur­tle that Greg Aberdein is keen to con­tinue to study.

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