Many people don’t realise catching Mary River turtles is illegal.
Many people don’t realise catching Mary River turtles is illegal. Contributed

Visitors advised: removal of Mary River turtles illegal

REMOVING Mary River turtles from the river system is illegal, but after two recent encounters Tiaro Landcare project officer Marilyn Connell isn't sure the public is aware of that.

Ms Connell, along with a group of friends, visited the Mary River earlier this month and encountered a man who had a cut-off milk carton with two turtle hatchlings inside.

One was a Mary River turtle, the other was a white-throated snapping turtle.

Later the group overheard another man talking about the "penny turtles" he had caught in the area.

Ms Connell said the Landcare group was hoping the State Government would put signage in the area, alerting visitors to the presence of endangered species such as the Mary River turtle and indicating that it was illegal to remove them from the area.

Ms Connell said she did not know why people were removing the turtles, although it was possible they were being kept as pets.

"It is a concern, but I'm not sure how big of a concern," she said."We want to try to encourage people to leave them in their natural habitats."

Mary River turtles were collected illegally in the 1960s and 70s and were sold as "penny turtles", dramatically reducing numbers. The reptiles have also been affected by feral animals and nest trampling, leaving them at risk of extinction.