Unique Australian Turtle Is Critically Endangered

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A white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula) native to Australia is critically endangered.

James Cook University researchers are raising awareness for the turtle’s plight. The turtle, which lives in the Queensland’s Connors River, has a unique breathing mechanism: it breathes out of its rear. It’s a breathing process called “cloacal respiration.”

The now critically endangered turtle does best in clear-flowing water, but construction projects like dams have restricted the turtles’ movement, and increased land use has caused sedimentation and erosion that harms the animal’s nesting spots.

“If the increased water infrastructure development and drought in northern Australia continues, they will continue to get hammered,” says James Cook University researcher Jason Schaffer who has been studying the turtle for the last eight years.

“These turtles breathe out of their ass, which is super awesome,” Schaffer told Scientific American.

Schaffer is calling for more nest and habitat protection.

The World's Most Endangered Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises

The Mary River turtle
The Mary River turtle is found in Australia, and is relatively tiny. It's endangered, thanks in part to the pet trade—it's also known as the Pet Shop turtle.Jason Edwards—National Geographic/Getty Images
Indochinese box turtle
The small Indochinese box turtle is found throughout Southeast Asia, but it's hardly abundant. Like a number of its relatives, the box turtle is critically endangered.Joel Sartore—National Geographic/Getty Images
Radiated Tortoise
The radiated tortoise of Madagascar is so named for the pattern on its shell. They are now critically endangered.Cyril Ruoso—JH Editorial/Minden Pictures/Corbis
Coahuilan box turtle
The Coahuilan box turtle is found in Mexico. It's endangered, which puts it in better stead than many other turtles and tortoises.George Grall—National Geographic/Getty Images
Heosemys depressa, Arakan forest turtle
A very rare and endangered Heosemys depressa, also known as an Arakan forest turtle, is seen in New York. This is one of more than 1,000 endangered turtles that were saved from a loft in the city. Collectors are one of the biggest threats to endangered turtles and tortoises.Reuters
Worker from Rome's Biopark zoo holds a Testudo Kleinmanni hatchling in Rome
A worker in a zoo holds a tiny Testudo Kleinmanni hatchling. The endangered species is also known as the Egyptian tortoise, and was rescued from the suitcase of a smuggler found in Rome.Tony Gentile—Reuters/Corbis
The Sulawesi forest turtle
The Sulawesi forest turtle is critically endangered, with just a handful of turtles left living in its wild habitat of Indonesia.Joel Sartore—National Geographic/Getty Images
Southern river terrapin
A 75-lb (34-kg) southern river terrapin waddles on sand as it is released near the Sre Ambel river in Cambodia. There are less than 200 of these turtles left in the wild. This one has a transmitter that will allow conservationists to track it.Eleanor Briggs—AP
Madagascar big-headed turtle, Erymnochlys madagascariensis
A Madagascar big-headed turtle, Erymnochlys madagascariensis. Madagascar is home to more unique species than any other land mass of its size. But that also puts Madagascar tortoises under greater threat.Joel Sartore—National Geographic/Getty Images
Burmese Star tortoise
A Burmese Star tortoise climbs out of its shell at the Taipei Zoo. The tortoise is the first of its kind to be born in captivity. Burmese Stars are under heavy pressure from poachers, going for $2,000 on the black market.Taipei Zoo/Reuters
Plowshare Angonoka tortoise
The Plowshare Angonoka tortoise is found in the forests of Madagascar, where it is under heavy pressure from habitat destruction.Getty Images
Lonesome George, Pinta Island Tortoise
Known as Lonesome George, this Pinta Island Tortoise in the Galapagos was the last known member of his subspecies. Before his death on June 24 last year he was a symbol for conservation efforts.Tui De Roy—Minden Pictures/Corbis

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