The "punk turtle" has been put on the endangered species list

15 April, 2018, 07:09 | Author: Hope Soto
  • Mary river turtle

The creature was only recognized and listed as a distinct species in 1994.

It has special organs in its cloaca - a cavity at the end of the digestive tract for the release of both excretory and genital products - that allow it to draw oxygen from the water.

This odd turtle is one of several species of cloaca-breathing turtles, which breathe underwater using specialised glands in their reproductive organs. The green punk look seen on the turtle's head is actually just green algae.

It is also now officially among the most endangered.

Australia's Mary River Turtle, with its green Mohican-style hair and ability to breathe through its genitals, is one of the world's most distinctive reptiles.

Worldwide conservation charity ZSL's (Zoological Society of London) pioneering EDGE of Existence programme highlight 100 species that are endangered but also evolutionarily unique, defining them as priorities for conservation efforts.

Driving the turtle's endangered status are environmental and human factors, the ZSL found, with the Mary River turtle taking up to 25 years to breed, an exceptionally long time for a species to maintain a healthy population. It used to be a popular pet in Australia during the 1960s and 1970s, being given the monikers such as "penny turtle" or "pet shop turtle".

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"If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth", Gumbs said.

"There has been a reduction in the population of breeding female Mary River Tortoises of around 95% between 1970 and 2000".

Destruction of the creatures' natural habitat through the building of dams, as well as the collection of its eggs for the pet trade, piled on the survival pressure.

The "punk turtle" was this week ranked 29th on the Zoological Society of London's Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered list, triggering calls for better protection of the reptile found in a remote part of Australia's east coast.

In an interview with The Guardian the co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, Rikki Gumbs explained how reptiles tend to be overlooked in comparison to birds and mammals when it comes to conservation.

No. 1 on the list is the Madagascar big-headed turtle, according to the Edge site, "sits alone at the end of a branch of the tree of life which stretches back more than 80 million years to the age of the dinosaurs".

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