Save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle


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In February 2015 a number of distressed and dying turtles were found by canoeists on the Bellinger River, near the township of Bellingen on the mid north coast of NSW. The community of Bellingen was devastated by news of a suspected mystery virus that was sweeping through the turtle population. It quickly became clear that if something wasn't done these delicate and charming creatures were at high risk of becoming extinct.

All from one species

The dead turtles were all from one species, the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle (Myuchelys gorgesi), that only exists in a 25-kilometre stretch of the Bellinger River. An immediate and co-ordinated response to this tragedy was implemented by local and state government authorities. However even with active management, recovery of the species will take more than a decade.

Bellingen Community has key role to play

The Bellingen Community has a key role to play in bringing the turtles back from the brink. We have 5 years to get our act together - that's how long it will take for the remaining juveniles in the river to grow to reproductive age. Community testing of river health reveals low dissolved oxygen, poor riparian zone health and high phosphate levels in critical turtle habitat.

  • The turtle breathes through it's bum so needs high dissolved oxygen levels.
  • The turtle needs healthy river bank vegetation to breed safely.
  • The turtle needs healthy river water to support the water bugs and plants it likes to eat.

A healthy river is key to the survival of the turtles. It is up to us to restore river health.

You can join us

OzGREEN is launching a crowd funding campaign to raise funds to support community efforts to restore the Bellinger River catchment to health and help bring the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle back from the brink. Funds will be used for education, research and on-ground action.

  • Community Involvement and Action - OzGREEN will involve Bellingen Schools and Community in citizen science, learning and on-ground action to protect the turtles and restore river health.
  • Research – a PhD scholarship at Western Sydney University to investigate the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle and steps to bring the species back from the brink.

OzGREEN is a Bellingen based not for profit organisation with over 25 years of award winning experience - educating, equipping and engaging communities across Australia to care for their rivers and our future. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.

Our first target is to raise $5000 during August to support MYRiveR Bellinger 19-23 September 2016. MYRiveR will involve Bellingen High Schools and enables young people to become citizen scientists, test the health of the river, identify key environmental threats and values, develop their own vision and implement their own Youth Action Plans to sustain the health of their local waterways. MYRiveR is an OzGREEN initiative see

Key Activities

Field Work 19-20 September - One day field work per school, conducting snapshot of ecosystem health (water quality testing, flow, biodiversity, and community attitude surveys)

Youth Congress 21-22-23 September at Bello Youth Hub - Students analyse field data, identify ecological threats and values, develop a river vision and action plans.

Community Forum 1-3pm 23 September at Bello Youth Hub 2-hour forum facilitated by young people to report back the results of their investigations, vision and action plans and engage community support.

Bellingen Turtlefest 1 October Presentation by youth at the Bellingen Turtle Festival to report back the results of their investigations, vision and action plans.

Youth Action Plans - Young people implement action plans with OzGREEN mentoring and support

Our target for 2016-17 is to raise $30,000 to support community education and action.


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The knowledge that your efforts have saved this endearing little guy from extinction.

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Team Members

Rowan Lennox

Amy Denshire

Anton Juodvalkis

Denise Aitken

Jane Grant

Ricky Spencer

Sue Lennox