Leo Shanahan and Christine Sams
October 8, 2006
A RARE turtle named after the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin could be under threat of extinction if a dam planned for construction in its habitat goes ahead.
The Elseya irwini – Irwin’s turtle – is named as a species at risk in a Queensland Government environmental impact report on a proposal to build the Urannah dam in the state’s north.
The Burdekin Basin draft water resource plan, which addresses environmental implications of the proposed Urannah dam, states: “Elseya irwini is known to occur in this reach. This species is of high conservation significance and is restricted to the Broken-Bowen River system and the lower Burdekin River.
“The dam impoundment would compromise the reproduction and survival of the species in this area because of loss of riffle habitat and destruction of sandbars used for egg laying by inundation.”
Though yet to be approved, the dam was a given a major boost in August after the Queensland Government included it in the draft water plan. The Queensland Government has now backed away from the proposal, saying there are no “current plans to build the Urannah dam”.
The first person to catch the irwini was Steve Irwin’s father, Bob, on a fishing line during a family camping trip in 1990. The family were confused by the creature as nobody had seen it before. They suspected it might be new species.
Steve took pictures of the turtle and sent them to world renowned turtle enthusiast John Cann. “They took some photos of it and sent it to me, they didn’t know what they had,” Mr Cann said. “I saw the photos and jumped on the telephone because I knew it was a new species and asked Steve if I could do some work on it. He said, ‘go for your life’.
“That’s why I named it after him. I think if someone discovers something they should have a reward for it. It’s a good legacy for Steve.”
Meanwhile, Irwin’s voice will be used in a Hollywood film due for release in December. Before his death, Irwin voiced the role of a cartoon character, an elephant seal, which will appear in the film Happy Feet, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Elijah Wood.