Agriculture Technology and Adoption Centre (AgTAC) Projects While the pigs are kept away, the turtles can play.

While the pigs are kept away, the turtles can play.


Associate Professor Nathan Waltham has been working with a team of JCU scientists, the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance and Traditional Owners in Cape York to hold at bay the feral pig invasion of agricultural lands and coastal wetlands whilst still allowing freshwater turtles safe access between water bodies.

Associate Professor Nathan Waltham

“This research project has been so rewarding on many levels, working with the Ranger group to solve the problem of freshwater turtle movement where fences are installed to protect wetlands from pig damage has been very successful.”

Photo of Nathan Waltham.

Feral pigs are the worst invasive mammal in Australia.  These feral animals are destroying agricultural grazing and cropping lands, contaminating water sources, and decimating coastal wetlands which are crucial habitats for native plants and animals.

Creek. Creek and wetland damage caused by feral pigs

Turtle shell.
Environmental impacts caused by feral pigs

Fencing is a common management practice for agricultural properties and, when well-maintained have been a successful solution.  Aak Puul Ngantam (APN) and Kalan Enterprises, project partners on Cape York, have also been using exclusion fences to protect the wetlands for many years.

The challenge to date has been keeping the balance right between excluding the feral pigs whilst allowing the native species to continue to traverse the land between water sources.  Freshwater turtles are one species that rely on moving between water bodies during critical lifecycle periods and when migrating between rivers and creeks during the dry season to avoid dehydration or starvation.

Turtle at fence.
Fencing creates challenges for traversing turtles

To allow the turtles to continue this practice without getting trapped in fencing around agricultural properties or wetlands, a research team led by JCU TropWATER & AgTAC’s Associate Professor Nathan Waltham has developed “turtle gates”.  These gates are a fast and cost-effective way to modify common exclusion fences with little more than a pair of pliers.

Turtle friendly gate providing a solution

This research was funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program through the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub.

Contact details

Associate Professor Nathan Waltham

Senior Principal Research Officer, TropWATER and CSE, James Cook University


+61 7 4781 4191

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