Nature conservation

Threatened species

Western Sawshelled Turtle, 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: Myuchelys bellii
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Gazetted date: 10 Jan 1997
Profile last updated: 30 Oct 2018


Bell's Turtle belongs to a group known as the saw-shelled turtles, referring 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, but most recent research is being published under Myuchelys bellii.


In NSW, currently found in four disjunct populations in the upper reaches of the Namoi, Gwydir and Border Rivers 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. Recent surveys have demonstrated that the species is more widely distributed than formerly thought, locally abundant in some areas yet also sparse in habitat that appears suitable.

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.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NandewarInverell Basalts Predicted None
NandewarNandewar Northern Complex Predicted None
NandewarPeel Predicted None
New England TablelandsBeardy River Hills Predicted None
New England TablelandsBinghi Plateau Predicted None
New England TablelandsBundarra Downs Known None
New England TablelandsDeepwater Downs Known None
New England TablelandsEastern Nandewars Known None
New England TablelandsGlenn Innes-Guyra Basalts Predicted None
New England TablelandsMoredun Volcanics Known None
New England TablelandsNortheast Forest Lands Known None
New England TablelandsSevern River Volcanics Known None
New England TablelandsStanthorpe Plateau Known Within Bald Rock National arkP or within 5 km buffer of the Park
New England TablelandsTenterfield Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsTingha Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsWalcha Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsYarrowyck-Kentucky Downs Known None
Other StateQLD Known None