The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas.
( click here
to see geographic restrictions).
The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Elseya belli
10 Jan 1997
Profile last updated:
12 Mar 2015
Bell's Turtle belongs to a group known as the saw-shelled turtles, refering to the saw-toothed rear edge of the upper shell. The head and neck are shorter in length than the shell, unlike the more common Snake-necked Turtle. A yellow stripe runs along the jaw and throat; the neck has many tiny tubercles. In adults, the underside of the shell is dark grey to black. Currently listed by the Commonwealth as Woolumbinia belli, referred to by the IUCN as Endangered under Elseya bellii, and recent research published under Myuchelys bellii.
In NSW, currently found only in the upper reaches of the Namoi and Gwydir River systems, on the escarpment of the North West Slopes. A separate small population exists in Queensland and though disjunct, recent studies indicate all populations are the same subspecies.
Habitat and ecology
- Shallow to deep pools in upper reaches or small tributaries of major rivers in granite country. Occupied pools are most commonly less than 3 m deep with rocky or sandy bottoms and patches of vegetation.
- Most typically uses narrow stretches of rivers 30 - 40 m wide. Most surrounding habitat has been converted to grazing land.
- Nests are dug out in riverbanks of sand or loam during late September to January. Eggs take 80 days to hatch and are thus vulnerable to nest predation for an extended period.
- Primarily a vegetarian, eating both aquatic plants and terrestrial leaves that fall into the watercourse. Also takes invertebrates ranging from insects to crayfish, other small animals and carrion.
Regional distribution and habitat
Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.
- Pollution and sedimentation of river habitat.
- Trampling and damage to river banks and riverside vegetation by grazing stock.
- Changes to natural stream flows through removal of water for irrigation.
- Predation on eggs by foxes, goannas and feral pigs.
- Predation on hatchlings by exotic fish species
- An unidentified disease causing cataracts and blindness, which potentially limits nutrition and reproduction.
- Potential transference of the unidentified disease that has killed large numbers of Myuchelys in the Bellinger River.
A targeted strategy for managing this species has been developed under the Saving Our Species program; click here
for details. For more information on the Saving Our Species program click here
Activities to assist this species
- Support local Landcare groups.
- Assist with the control of foxes near breeding habitats during summer and autumn.
- Protect streams and rivers from pollution.
- Fence riversides to protect from grazing stock and provide stock watering points away from rivers.
- Retain and restore native riverbank vegetation to protect water quality and nesting sites.
- Support catchment management initiatives aiming to maintain or restore natural river flows.
- Report any sightings of Bell's Turtle to the OEH.
- NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (2003) Threatened Species of the New England Tablelands and North West Slopes of NSW. (NSW NPWS, Coffs Harbour)
- NSW Scientific Committee (1997) Bell's Turtle - Vulnerable species determination - final. DEC (NSW), Sydney.
- Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2008) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Elseya belli (Bell's Turtle). Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
Known or predicted
Geographic restrictions region