Prevent the extinction of the unique, Australian Mary River Turtle! Stop the Mega-dam!

The Queensland Premier's announcement (5 July 2006) to build a mega-dam on the Mary River threatens the very existence of the most endangered turtle in Australia and one of the most unique turtles in the world.  The seasonally variable Mary River is actually the last remaining habitat for several of the country’s endangered species.  One of these is the Mary River Turtle Elusor macrurus , but other endangered and vulnerable species of this catchment include the Southern Snapping Turtle (Elseya albagula), Mary River Cod (Maccullochella peelii mariensis), Queensland Lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) and Honey Blue-eye (Pseudomugil mellis), just to name a few!  The Mary River is clearly a unique habitat that provides specific requirements for all of these species that are found nowhere else in the world.

The Mary River Turtle was only described by Cann and Legler in 1994.  It is a monotypic (one of a kind) genus representing a very old lineage of turtles that has all but disappeared from the evolutionary history of Australia.  It is one of Australia's largest species of freshwater turtle with specimens measuring in excess of 50 cm carapace (shell) length!  The tail structure, particularly in males, is a unique feature that has been lost in all other modern turtle species!  This species is able to absorb oxygen via the cloaca/vent whilst underwater which is a survival strategy, particularly for hatchlings and juveniles.  To do this, they require the water to be highly oxygenated and therefore impounded or dammed areas do not provide suitable habitat for their survival!    Dams also have the effect of dividing or fragmenting populations thus impeding the gene flow and causing a loss of diversity.

The main threatening factors to the survival of the Mary River turtle include slow maturation (20+ years), the continued use of historic nesting sites (even when nests are heavily predated by feral pests and trampled by livestock), loss of habitat and loss of specific foods associated with the lack of aquatic and riparian ecosystems.  Do they really need a dam to add to all of this?

  Prior to the announcement of this dam the Mary River Turtle was federally and internationally listed as endangered by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2000), respectively.  This listing is currently being revised using available data and, even before this dam is constructed, their status may be changed to ‘critically endangered’.

The Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage is the only person with the power to stop this dam.  He has to be made aware of the potential destruction of this species, to be persuaded to act!

The answer to Queensland’s water crisis should lie in education about sustainable water use, storm water collection and the introduction of water recycling and other modern technology, not the damming of a fragile and unique river ecosystem.

Click on link below for a photo of a Mary River turtle!

PLEASE NOTE : The recipient of this petition has now changed.  The new Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Resources is Hon. Malcolm Turnbull.  This petition will no longer be sent to Senator Ian Campbell.
Letter to Australian Honorable Members of Parliament
Senator Ian Campbell, Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage
Premier Peter Beattie, Premier of Queensland
Dear Sirs,

We who have signed this petition, request your attention regarding the listing of the Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus) as ENDANGERED under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) (1999) and International IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2000) and the potential for causing its extinction, in the wild, if the mega-dam is constructed on the mid-catchment of the Mary River, Queensland. This river provides the only native habitat for the Mary River Turtle on which it relies upon specific habitats and foods for its survival. The fact that historic nesting sites would become inundated should also be considered as this species lays its eggs in the same nesting banks, year after year!  
Given that this species is already limited by many threatening factors (such as slow maturation [20+ years], the continued use of historic nesting sites (even when nests are heavily predated by feral animals and trampled by livestock), loss of habitat and the loss of specific foods associated with the loss of aquatic and riparian ecosystems) the fact that a dam will further reduce the genetic diversity of the species by dividing or fragmenting the population, may be the ‘last straw’!  Additionally, hatchlings and juveniles require oxygen ‘saturated’ water to avoid predation, of which is severely lacking within impoundments.  The actual impacts of this decision will not be truly realized until well after the damage has been done.

We understand that Australia is in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever, particularly Queensland, but destroying a fragile and unique river ecosystem must be considered an absolute last resort, not a ‘quick fix’ solution.  Surely there are cheaper, more sustainable solutions such as education about water use and recycling, storm water collection and the introduction of water recycling and other modern technologies. 

When it comes to the survival of any species, it becomes cause for concern for the whole world, not just the residents of the country in question!

Yours sincerely,

We the Undersigned

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