Guarding a rare Mary River friend

THE PEACE and serenity of a Tiaro dawn on the banks of the Mary River may seem light years away from Disneyworld.

They are chained, however, from opposite ends of an unlikely spectrum by passionate conservationist Marilyn Connell.

Yesterday Ms Connell, in the caring company of other members of the Tiaro and District Landcare, patrolled the river banks in search of turtle nests to protect.

The patrols begin about 5am and continue for anything between five and 10 hours, depending on what they find.

Yesterday, only one Mary River turtle nest was discovered. Ms Connell believes this might be down to a flush in river levels.

As it draws to an end, 2009 has served the Mary River turtle well.

“It’s probably the year of its life and it doesn’t know it,” Ms Connell says.

“It didn’t know the big threat looming over its existence.

“It’s gone big time this year. We have an international star.”

The latest feather in the turtle’s protective cap is the news that the endangered species, discovered just 15 years ago, features in this year’s publication of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

With that memorable photograph of the turtle with the famous green afro, a little story describes how photographer Chris Van Wyk got a surprise when he spotted the “punk turtle” swimming in the Mary River last year.

“That’s amazing,” Ms Connell said when she heard about the Ripley’s coverage.

It tops a year when the threat of the Traveston dam offered a reverse positive by boosting its profile in Australia and overseas.

So too did Ms Connell’s trip to the United States for the annual symposium on the conservation and biology of tortoises and fresh water turtles stoked plenty of interest, including some from the good people of Disneyworld.

All in a year’s work.

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