Bell’s Turtle, Western Sawshelled Turtle (Myuchelys bellii)

Species Action Statement

This species has been assigned to the Landscape species management stream under the Saving our Species (SoS) program.

Justification for allocation to this management stream

This species is distributed across relatively large areas and is subject to threatening processes that generally act at the landscape scale (e.g. habitat loss or degradation) rather than at distinct, defineable locations.

Conservation status

Management objectives

This action statement aims to ensure that the species is secure in the wild in NSW and that its NSW geographic range is extended or maintained.

Species sightings and management sites across NSW

The map below displays the species’ distribution in NSW, based upon the species’ geographic range, habitat distribution or area of occupancy (to as high a resolution as available data allow, using a range of data sources).

Information about the species’ habitat and ecology is available here.

The map may also display one or more management sites where management of important populations is underway. More information is available in the tables below.


The species occurs in the following IBRA (Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia) regions in NSW:

NSW North Coast
New England Tablelands

Proportion of the species' distribution on reserve

5% of the species' distribution occurs on reserve (within NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service estate).

Critical actions for this species

The key threats to the viability of landscape-managed species are loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat, and widespread pervasive factors such as impacts of climate change and disease. Many of these threats are addressed by NSW planning, native vegetation, and biodiversity legislation, policy and programs including the offsets program (BioBanking, NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects), Biodiversity Certification, management of environmental water and reservation under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Threats to this species are outlined here.

The actions listed in the action toolbox are supplementary to NSW legislation, policy and programs and can be used by stakeholders, where applicable to guide management at a site, regional or state scale.

Action toolbox

Action DescriptionScale
Document sites where water is being drawn from turtle habitat, and work with property owners to decrease the impact of this action on riffle-run and deep water habitats for daytime and drought refuge.Site
Work with landholders to create interest and incentives to protect turtle habitat, primarily through fencing and the creation of non-riparian water points for livestock. Select sites where feral pig exclusion is cost-effective, and encourage landholder to enter into agreements to manage habitat appropriately (preferably in-perpetuity covenants or stewardship agreements). Site
Investigate the origin of the Macquarie turtle (Emydura macquarii) population in Copeton Reservoir and determine if there is a risk of hybridisation and competitive displacement by the species to Bell’s turtle. If deemed to be introduced and a threat to Bell’s turtle, prevent further expansion of Macquarie turtles in the upper Gwydir river system.Site
Conduct targeted research to assess the effects of flooding on habitat quality, food resources, turtle health, reproduction and survival (following similar work on George's turtle and other species). Area
Document the current health status of all Bell's turtle using rapid survey techniques to detect animals showing disease symptoms similar to those observed in George's turtle. Prepare and follow strict hygiene protocols for all work. Area
Determine the cost-effectiveness of locating turtle nests using sniffer-dogs and protecting them with inverted mesh cages from which hatchlings can exit. Focus on Bell's turtle nests if olfactory selectivity is feasible. Site
Identify high priority sites with turtle habitat and implement restoration and rehabilitation of locally native riverbank vegetation to improve water quality and nesting habitat. Site
Educate local stakeholders and recreationists who may come across dead or sick turtles on symptoms and response so as to increase sampling effort and coverage. Provide twice-yearly educational press releases in local newspapers. Site, Area
Install signage at main access points to Bell's turtle habitat to inform fishers and other recreationists of hygiene protocols required to prevent disease transfer. Use all media opportunities available to emphasise the need for careful attention by the broader community. Use signage and media to inform fishers of the species' vulnerability and encourage safe release of captured turtles, with consideration of more degradable hooks. Site
Survey the entire range of the Bell's turtle, starting with previously researched sub-populations, in order to establish current population density and distribution. Sub-sample using capture techniques to verify the usefulness of more cost-effective methods (e.g. basking survey) across different habitat types. Area
If demographic models indicate that recruitment is inadequate for viability, and predation cannot be cost-effectively controlled, explore potential for gathering eggs from females or nests and raising hatchlings for safe release (as has been trialled with this and other species). Area

How will this species be managed?

Key management sites for this threatened species are being identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage and other program partners, where feasible, cost-effective and beneficial to the threatened species. Currently, 1 management site has been identified for this threatened species.

Management sites

Click on column headers to sort
Site nameSite typeStatusLocal government area (LGA)
New England Tablelands Priority Management SiteActive Armidale Regional, Glen Innes Severn, Gwydir, Inverell, Kyogle, Liverpool Plains, Tamworth Regional, Tenterfield, Uralla, Walcha 

Are you or is someone you know doing conservation work for this species or in this area?

Contact us to tell us about the work. Your input will help OEH evaluate the status of threatened species and provide a broader picture of conservation work across NSW.