SPECIES: Elseya lavarackorum — Gulf Snapping Turtle
Australia's third most endangered turtle is the Gulf Snapping Turtle. It sounds like a monster, but this short-necked, freshwater turtle only grows to about 35cm. Monster it certainly is not. Its name describes the way in which it bites, and while the Gulf Snapping Turtle is a herbivorous feeder - leaves, fruits, flowers, bark and roots - some other and much larger species of Snapping Turtle in the world are capable of actually snapping off another turtle's head if under threat.
The Gulf Snapping Turtle is endemic to northern Australia and found in Qld and NT. It is found in large rivers, lagoons and lakes, with sandy or rocky bottoms and only come ashore to lay eggs. Given a bit of sunshine, turtles will lay on exposed rocks soaking up the warmth.
Major threats to the Gulf Snapping Turtle are degradation of river banks by stock - which has a flow-on affect on water quality, food sources and nesting sites, and predation of nesting sites by monitors, rats and feral pigs. Recovery of the species to ensure its future survival revolves around fencing key habitat, the control of weeds and pesticide use, the control of pest animals and reporting new populations so they are able to be monitored and protected.
Photo: Freeman, A.,Queensland Parks And Wildlife Service.