Bell's Turtle - profile

Indicative distribution

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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
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Gazetted date: 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 or streams 30 - 40 m wide, running through habitat that has now been converted to grazing land.
  • Nests are dug out in riverbanks of sand or loam during October to January. Eggs take over two months to hatch and so are 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.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

CMA CMA sub-region Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Border Rivers-GwydirEastern Nandewars (Part B) Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirYarrowyck-Kentucky Downs Known None
NamoiEastern Nandewars Known None
Northern RiversStanthorpe Plateau Known within Bald Rock NP or within 5 km buffer of NP