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 Not listed under EPBC Act
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Emydura signata (Bellinger River, NSW) (Bellinger River Emydura) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2013em) [Listing Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, species delisted from the EPBC Act (14/12/2013).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzq) [Threat Abatement Plan].
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 Emydura signata (Bellinger River, NSW).
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (150) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013ac) [Legislative Instrument] as Emydura macquarii signata (Bellinger River, NSW).
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Emydura macquarii (Gray, 1830) - species delisting (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2009) [State Species Management Plan].
Scientific name Emydura macquarii signata (Bellinger River, NSW) [1785]
Family Chelidae:Testudines:Reptilia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Ahl, 1932
Infraspecies author  
Reference Georges et al (2007) The Bellinger Emydura - Challenges for Management
Other names Emydura signata (Bellinger River, NSW) [66848]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Emydura macquarii signata (Bellinger River, NSW) was removed from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 list of threatened species on 14 December 2013.

A genetic study by Georges and colleagues (2007) found that the Bellinger River Emydura is a population of the widespread Macquarie River Turtle (Emydura macquarii) that is genetically indistinct and occupies a suboptimal habitat. Georges and Thomson (2010) subsequently included the Bellinger River Emydura in the subspecies E. macquarii macquarii, which occurs throughout the Murray-Darling catchment. Previously, it was believed that the Bellinger River Emydura was a relic species, or resulted from the natural introduction of E. macquarii from adjoining catchments in pre-European times. However, the study of Georges and colleagues (2007) suggested, on the basis of mitochondrial DNA work, that the Bellinger River Emydura is not native to the river but is a translocated population originating from several genetic sources. The dispersal may have occurred naturally from neighbouring catchments or most likely through human introduction to the river system. At least some of the genetic diversity can be attributed to recent events such as the accidental release of three individuals of  Emydura macquarii into the Bellinger River from the Coffs Harbour area in 2000. More extensive sampling of turtles from adjacent drainage systems and further molecular studies on nuclear DNA sequences are required to determine whether the genetic variability of the Bellinger River Emyduracan be attributed entirely to such recent introductions (Georges et al. 2007; Spencer et al. 2007).

The population of Macquarie River Turtle that was previously known as the Bellinger River Emydura is an olive/brown or dark brown chelid turtle growing to 30 cm with a white/yellow body, a pale yellowish stripe along the lower jaw to the side of the neck, a broadly oval shell and rather small head (Cogger 2000). Chelid turtles are characterised by withdrawing their necks sideways into the shell; highly aquatic habit; webbed feet; and capacity to stay submerged for a long period of time.

The Bellinger River Emydura is now considered synonymous with the Macquarie River Turtle (Emydura macquarii macquarii), which is widespread in the Murray Darling Basin and coastal catchments from the Nepean Hawkesbury in the south to the Brisbane and Pine Rivers in the north (Georges & Thomson 2010; NSW DECCW 2009).

Previously, the Bellinger River Emydura was thought to be restricted to the Bellinger River, north-east NSW (Cogger et al. 1993; NSW NPWS 2001f). Searches of the river over 20 years have located it at only four sites, from upstream of Thora downstream to the Bellingen township (Cann cited in NSW NPWS 2001f). The population was thought to be very small, with possibly fewer than 10 individuals at each site. Some areas of occupied habitat are protected in the Bellinger River National Park (NSW NPWS 2001f).

The population of Macquarie River Turtle (previously known as the Bellinger River Emydura) hybridises with George's Turtle (Wollumbinia georgesi). George's Turtle is restricted to, but common in, the Bellinger River and has no conservation status at State or Commonwealth level. The restricted distribution and habitat requirements means that hybridisation of could be seen as detrimental to the genetic integrity of George's Turtle (Georges et al. 2007; Spencer et al. 2007).

The population of Macquarie River Turtle (previously known Bellinger River Emydura) prefers long pools with a rocky substrate and sheltering features such as snags, overhanging banks or clumps of vegetation such as Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). They are often found in shallow waters of such pools (Spencer et al. 2007) and they utilise partially submerged logs as basking platforms (NSW NPWS 2001f). Near Thora they occupy several long, deep pools along moderately broad reaches within a 200 m stretch of river (Cogger et al. 1993; NSW NPWS 2001f). 

The population of Macquarie River Turtle (previously known as the Bellinger River Emydura) nests from October to early January and multiple clutches may be laid (Cann 1998). Eggs may be laid in nests excavated in the riverbanks (NSW NPWS 2001f).

The population of Macquarie River Turtle (previously known as the Bellinger River Emydura) is omnivorous, consuming small crustaceans, aquatic insects, filamentous algae and possibly aquatic weed (Cann 1993). Ribbon weed (Vallisneria gigantea) and possibly Hydrilla spp. may be important food sources (Spencer et al. 2007).

Threats to habitat include water pollution and increased sediment loads from nearby agriculture and forestry activities, construction of bridges and fords, extraction of river sand and gravel, clearing and degradation of riparian vegetation, water diversion and changes to river flows (Cogger et al. 1993; NSW NPWS 2001f). The Fox (Vulpes vulpes) and goannas (Varanus spp.) are high level predators of turtle egg nests on the Bellinger River, with 72% of nests being predated (Blamires et al. 2005 cited in Spencer et al. 2007).

Bellinger Landcare (NSW) received $19 590 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2006–07 for a habitat and population survey to determine the Bellinger River Emydura's distribution and abundance, to record habitat requirements, and to enhance habitat at six sites within the turtle's known range.

Management documents relevant to the Bellinger River Emydura are at the start of the profile.

No threats data available.

Cann, J. (1993). The Bellinger and Orara Rivers Water Supply Scheme: an Aquatic Study of the Freshwater Turtles. Department of Works, Coffs Harbour.

Cann, J. (1998). Australian Freshwater Turtles. Singapore: Beaumont Publishing Pty Ltd.

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

Cogger, H.G., E.E. Cameron, R.A. Sadlier & P. Eggler (1993). The Action Plan for Australian Reptiles. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Available from:

Georges, A. & S. Thomson (2010). Diversity of Australasian freshwater turtles, with an annotated synonymy and keys to species. Zootaxa. 2496:1-37. [Online]. Magnolia Press. Available from:

Georges, A., R. Walsh, R-J. Spencer, M. Welsh & H. Shaffer (2007). The Bellinger Emydura. Challenges for Management. Report to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney. [Online]. Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra: Canberra. Available from:

NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW) (2009). Emydura macquarii (Gray, 1830) - species delisting. [Online]. Final determination of the NSW Scientific Committee, Department of the Environment, Climate Change and Water.

NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2001f). Bellinger River Emydura Emydura macquarii (Bellinger River) Recovery Plan. [Online]. Sydney: NSW NPWS. Available from:

Spencer, R-J., A. Georges & M. Welsh (2007). The Bellinger Emydura. Ecology, population status and management. Report to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney. [Online]. Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra: Canberra. Available from:

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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). Emydura macquarii signata (Bellinger River, NSW) in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:22:46 +1000.