Shelling out

A trial to boost the numbers of crit­i­cally en­dan­gered west­ern swamp tor­toise started at the Ellen Brook Na­ture Re­serve last Fri­day, with 12 of the an­i­mals re­leased.

Midland Reporter - - News - Lisa Thomas

TWELVE west­ern swamp tor­toises have been re­leased at the Ellen Brook Na­ture Re­serve as part of a new trial to boost numbers of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species.

The tor­toises were re­leased on Fri­day morn­ing by sci­en­tists from the Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife, staff from the Perth Zoo and mem­bers of the Friends of the West­ern Swamp Tor­toise Group.

The tor­toises, which have been fit­ted with a ra­dio trans­mit­ter, will live at the re­serve for the next 12 months and have their move­ments stud­ied.

Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife se­nior re­search sci­en­tist Ger­ald Kuch­ling has been study­ing the species for more than 30 years and said the ex­per­i­men­tal re­lease would pro­vide com­par­a­tive data.

He said the tor­toises which were bred at Perth Zoo were re­leased at the Ellen Brook be­cause it was the best known habi­tat for the species in the world.

The tor­toises in the re­serve were now self-sus­tain­ing and breed­ing. “It’s been very sat­is­fy­ing watch­ing the tor­toises over the past 30 years,” he said.

“When I first came to WA in 1987 they didn’t breed in cap­tiv­ity and the pop­u­la­tion was down to 13.”

Dr Kuch­ling said the suc­cess of the breed­ing pro­gram had been a re­sult of work from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions and groups.

Perth Zoo zookeeper Bradie Durell has spent 12 years work­ing on the pro­gram for the species.

He said it had been the most re­ward­ing job rais­ing the tor­toises for re­lease.

“I am pas­sion­ate about an­i­mals but to be in­volved in con­ser­va­tion as well is so re­ward­ing and know­ing you’re help­ing save an an­i­mal from ex­tinc­tion,” he said.

“It’s bit­ter­sweet re­leas­ing them, but I am happy be­cause this is where they are meant to be.”

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d485898 Pic­ture: David Baylis

Friends of the West­ern Swamp Tor­toise Group chair Jan Bant and chief in­ves­tiga­tive sci­en­tist Ger­ald Kuch­ling hold­ing up one of the tor­toises.

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