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acrylic on illustration board 18 x 24
Looking for all the world like the Mock Turtle from Alice in Wonderland, the Fly River Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) was described to science in 1887, some two decades after John Tenniel created his original illustrations of that character. Living in slow-moving waters of Southern New Guinea and Northern Australia, this species is more herbivorous than most highly aquatic fresh-water turtles, supplementing its diet of aquatic plants and fallen fruit with snails and other invertebrates, carrion, and occasional fish, although the Red-striped Rainbowfishes (Melanotaenia splendida) skulking among the submerged snags have little to fear from the passing reptile. A dragonfly naiad (Aeschna sp.) clings to the same snag. Although it is protected in Australia, Indonesia and P.N.G., the Fly River Turtle has recently been smuggled out of those countries in large numbers for the pet trade. In just a couple of years this smuggling has exploded to the point that the World Wide Fund for Nature was moved to put the turtle on its 10 most wanted endangered species list in September 2004.