THE picturesque rivers and creeks of the massive Fitzroy River Basin are the only place in the world where you will find the Fitzroy River Turtle - more fondly known as the "bum-breathing turtle".
These turtles are twice unique: They occur only in Central Queensland; and they are unique in how they breathe, being able to draw in air with their lungs or, while under water, by taking it in through their bottoms.
Unfortunately, changes to their habitats - in the form of predators, human activity and natural disasters - have meant that, as a species, they are also vulnerable.
But this week their survival received a big breath of fresh air with the news that the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) - Central Queensland's leading natural resource management group - has received $213,000 to help protect them. The money has come from the Australian Government's "Caring for our Country" initiative and FBA chief executive officer Paul Birch said the resultant project would allow the group to address fundamental threats facing the bum-breathing turtle (Rheodytes leukops).
"FBA will partner with Greening Australia to conduct nest protection activities with volunteers, remove weeds and cattle from nesting banks and gather baseline data across the basin," Mr Birch said.
"Fitzroy River turtles grow up to 25 centimetres long, are oval-shaped, medium to dark brown in colour with darker blotches, have rough ridges on their shells and have distinctive white eyes. The turtles were discovered a little over 30 years ago in the Fitzroy Basin and, over time, they have been listed as vulnerable due to threats to their natural habitats," he said.
Mr Birch said threats facing the turtle included feral animals eating eggs from their nests, dams and weirs which restrict their range of movement, disturbances to riverbanks and their feeding and breeding areas, floods and reductions in water quality.
"This funding will go a long way to help protect these special turtles but public awareness is extremely important to ensure the survival of this unique species," he said.