Skip To Content

    Everyone's Talking About That Badass Turtle With Bright Green Punk Hair And Here's Why

    It breathes through its ass too!

    This is the Mary River turtle. It rose to fame when the Zoological Society of London included it in this year's Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    Eight Australian reptile species appear on the list. Each one is given an EDGE score based on its evolutionary uniqueness and conservation status. The turtle ranked number 29 out of 100, with 1 being the most at risk species.

    This image of a Mary River turtle was used in media coverage last week, clearly because of its green punk hair.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    People were equally fascinated by its ability to breathe through its ... anus.

    Photographer Chris Van Wyk told BuzzFeed there are several of this species in southeast Queensland's Mary River but this little fella was the only one with this much algae growing out of his head.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    "It was just by chance I found one that wasn’t too shy and also had algae growing to this length," Van Wyk said.

    "Algae is commonly found growing on these turtles but it’s usually only in small patches and they're really short."

    Sometimes, the Mary River turtle looks like this:

    But more often than not, they look like this:

    Van Wyk came across this turtle in 2008 just outside of the small country town of Kenilworth when the Queensland government was planning on building a dam on the Mary River.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    "The photos were used to spearhead the anti-dam campaign."

    In 2009, federal minister for the environment (and lead singer of Midnight Oil) Peter Garrett ruled against the construction of the Traveston Crossing Dam, stating it posed a threat to the endangered species living in the river.

    Van Wyk lives in the area and knows where and under what water conditions he can spot these turtles.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    This species cannot be found anywhere else in the world and researchers say it has no known relatives in the entire reptile kingdom.

    The Mary River turtle was listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in July 2000.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    The turtle was discovered in the early 1900s but was only given its scientific name in 1994 (Elusor macrurus). Jo Harding from the Office of the Director of National Parks in Canberra told BuzzFeed it was already endangered at that point, with pet shop owners selling them since the 1970s.

    "Because it is only found in such a small area, when people collected the eggs to sell as pets it's a huge impact on the population. It's one of the reasons they are so endangered today. Foxes also eat their eggs and cattle trample on their nests."

    A spokesperson for the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy told BuzzFeed a conservation plan was approved for the Mary River turtle in 2008.

    "Grants totalling $2.8 million have been provided for revegetation and restoration projects in the Mary River catchment, which will directly enhance habitat quality for threatened species in the region, including the Mary River turtle."

    Private groups that work on the conservation of the Mary River try to protect the turtles through fencing and fox control but the turtle nests get washed away when floods hit the area.

    Chris Van Wyk / Via Flickr: chrisvanwykdotcom

    "One of the things Bush Blitz [Australia’s largest nature discovery project] does is try to tell the story about how scientific names are so important," Harding said. "It was only once [the Mary River turtle] was given a scientific name that everyone could work together to try and protect it. Hopefully it’s not too late for these guys."

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form