Turtles are of great cultural significance to the local traditional owner groups and are iconic on a global scale. Additionally, turtles are long-lived animals that are sensitive to environmental changes; thus turtles are an excellent indicator species of ecosystem health, making them highly valuable to researchers and ecological managers.
The health of Australian freshwater turtles is understudied. Events like the Bellinger River snapping turtle die-offs have emphasised the need for freshwater turtle disease monitoring programs in Australia. Through collaboration with James Cook University, traditional owners, research institutions, high schools, government agencies and NGOs we will conduct an extended health survey of freshwater turtles in North-Eastern Queensland. This website will be used to report results and share data.
A primary goal of this project is to identify and characterise the distribution of potentially devastating ranaviruses. Concern for ranavirus disease is increasing around the world. This group of viruses is responsible for mass die-offs in many populations of ectothermic vertebrates, i.e. fish, amphibians and reptiles like freshwater turtles. During this project, we hope to increase our understanding of Australian ranaviruses and identify at-risk turtle populations.