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