Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered as Elseya lavarackorum
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008ga) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened reptiles. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.6 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011m) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Elusor lavarackorum.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (11/04/2007) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007f) [Legislative Instrument] as Elseya lavarackorum.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Gulf Snapping Turtle Elseya lavarackorum (Northern Territory Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NT NRETAS), 2006ba) [Information Sheet].
QLD:Enhancing biodiversity hotspots along Western Queensland stock routes (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009a) [Management Plan].
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): July 2012) as Elseya lavarackorum
Scientific name Elseya lavarackorum [67197]
Family Chelidae:Testudines:Reptilia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Archer & White, 1994)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Other names Elusor lavarackorum [66629]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://aerg.canberra.edu.au/pub/aerg/herps/turtles.htm

Scientific name: Elseya lavarackorum

Common name: Gulf Snapping Turtle

Conventionally accepted as Elseya lavarackorum (A.W. White & Archer, 1994) (AFD 2010). Previously the species was listed as Elusor lavarackorum.

The Gulf Snapping Turtle is a brown to dark brown turtle growing to 35 cm. Part of a group of snapping turtles in the Elseya genus, known as the E. dentata complex, the Gulf Snapping Turtle differs from other members by its undulating (rather than straight) 'seam' between the humeral and pectoral shields, the second and third shields on its 'plastron' (the lower half of the bottom shell). The species has a white underbelly (Cogger 2000; Queensland DERM 2008).

Queensland

This species was first discovered and named as a fossil specimen collected from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area (WHA) in Queensland. In 1998, the Gulf Snapping Turtle was found to be still living in Lawn Hill Gorge, Gregory River, adjacent to the Riversleigh WHA (Archer et al. 1998).

Northern Territory

The Gulf Snapping Turtle is now known from a much wider distribution in the Northern Territory and Queensland, from the Calvert River to the Nicholson River systems, including the Roper, Limmen Bight, Robinson and Nicholson Rivers all of which discharge into the Gulf of Carpentaria (Georges & Adams 1996; Thomson et al. 1997; NT NRETAS 2006ba).

The species inhabits large rivers and their associated overflow lagoons and oxbow lakes (Cogger 2000). The Gulf Snapping turtle is found in deeper permanent pools most often with muddy, sandy or rocky bottoms. The species is also found in the middle reaches of rivers, upstream of saline regions and downstream of escarpments, including plunge pools. Steep rocky gorges, and river reaches with intact river banks seem to be preferred habitats for Gulf Snapping Turtles (Thomson et al. 1997). Turtles will bask on exposed rocks and logs and commonly float with just their head breaking the surface of the water (Queensland DERM 2008).

Females of the species lay eggs in soil close to the waters edge, in 'aggregations' or approximately within 2 kms of each other. Females then disperse into the river system again. Nesting occurs on various soil types near the waters edge, with both sandy banks and riverine banks with Melaleuca and Casuarina growth being recorded as nesting sites (C. Limpus 2010, pers comm., cited in Clark 2010; NT NRETAS 2006ba).

The Gulf Snapping Turtle is a mainly herbivorous feeder, consuming leaves, fruits, flowers, bark and Pandanus roots. It is suspected that juveniles may take more animal species or insects as they are readily trapped using meat as bait (NT NRETAS 2006ba). Figs are also said to be an important food source for the species (Crowley & Ziembicki 2009).

Largely nocturnal, surveys at night are stated to dramatically increase observations of the species (C. Limpus 2010, pers comm., cited in Clark 2010).

Identified Threats

Stock degradation of river banks would be considered the major threat to the Gulf Snapping Turtle, affecting water quality, food sources and nesting sites (Clark 2010; NT NRETAS 2006ba).

Potential Threats

The Gulf Snapping Turtle is potentially affected by land clearance or actions that have adverse effects on riparian forests, because this species relies on riparian trees for most of its dietary intake, like a related species E. dentata sensu (Kennett & Tory 1996). Individuals have been recorded caught in fishing nets and nest sites are raided by feral pigs (Sus scrofa), along with native species such as monitors (Varanus sp.) and rats (Hydromys chrysogaster) (Clark 2010; NT NRETAS 2006ba).

Crowley & Ziembicki (2009) identify the following as best practice land management actions for the Gulf Snapping Turtle:

  • control pest animals
  • control weeds
  • fence key habitat
  • limit pesticide use
  • reduce bycatch
  • report new populations.

Management documents for the Gulf Snapping Turtle include:

  • Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs (DEH 2005w).
  • Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (TSSC 2008ga).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Electrophoretic delineation of species boundaries within the short-necked freshwater turtles of Australia (Testudines: Chelidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, London. 118:241-260. (Georges, A. & M. Adams, 1996) [Journal].
Diet of two freshwater turtles, Chelodina rugosa and Elseya dentata (Testudines: Chelidae) from the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia. Copeia. 1996 (2):409-419. (Kennett, R. & O. Tory, 1996) [Journal].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008ga) [Conservation Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008ga) [Conservation Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008ga) [Conservation Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat modification, destruction and alteration due to changes in land use patterns Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008ga) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008ga) [Conservation Advice].

Archer, M., S. Hand & H. Godthelp (1998). The Riversleigh Project's investigations of the resources of the Riversleigh World Heritage property, Queensland.

Australian Fauna Directory (2010). Species Elseya lavarackorum. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/taxa/Elseya_lavarackorum.

Clark. H (2010). Gulf Snapping Turtle (Elseya lavarackorum) Impact Assessment and Monitoring Proposal Draft. Redbank Copper Limited. Western Australia.

Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia - 6th edition. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Crowley, G. & M. Ziembicki (2009). Management Guidelines for Gulf Snapping Turtle Elseya lavarackorum. [Online]. North Australian Land Manager. Available from: http://www.landmanager.org.au/view/351215/management-guidelines-for-gulf-snapping-turtle--elseya-lavarackorum.html.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011m). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened reptiles. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.6 . [Online]. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPaC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-reptiles.html.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2005w). Threat abatement plan for predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs. [Online]. Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/pubs/feral-pig-tap.pdf.

Georges, A. & M. Adams (1996). Electrophoretic delineation of species boundaries within the short-necked freshwater turtles of Australia (Testudines: Chelidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, London. 118:241-260.

Kennett, R. & O. Tory (1996). Diet of two freshwater turtles, Chelodina rugosa and Elseya dentata (Testudines: Chelidae) from the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia. Copeia. 1996 (2):409-419.

Northern Territory Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NT NRETAS) (2006ba). Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Gulf Snapping Turtle Elseya lavarackorum. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/animals/threatened/pdf/herps/gulf_snapping_turtle_lc.pdf.

Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) (2008). Gulf Snapping Turtle. [Online]. Available from: http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/az_of_animals/gulf_snapping_turtle.html. [Accessed: 11-Jun-2010].

Thomson, S., White, A. & Georges, A. (1997). Re-evaluation of Emydura lavarackorum: identification of a living fossil. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 42(1):327-336.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2008ga). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya lavarackorum (Gulf Snapping Turtle). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/67197-conservation-advice.pdf.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Elseya lavarackorum in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:22:24 +1000.