Tortoises let loose in wild
THIRTY western swamp tortoises have a new home in the Moore River Nature Reserve thanks to efforts to save the critically endangered species from extinction.
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions senior research scientist Gerald Kuchling said the August 29 release was crucial to strengthen the population in the wild of the little reptiles.
“The western swamp tortoise is Australia’s rarest and most critically endangered reptile, with habitat loss, low rainfall and predation by foxes, pigs, rats and ravens the major causes for its decline,” he said.
Dr Kuchling said fewer than 50 individuals survived 30 years ago, but a conservation program was helping to increase numbers.
“Since 1988 in a collaborative partnership with Perth Zoo we have been running a successful breeding program and have been able to translocate captive-bred juveniles to three sites since 1994,” he said.
“Moore River Nature Reserve offers good habitat and ongoing control of feral predators.
“Some of the 146 juveniles previously released there have already reached maturity and started breeding.”
Perth Zoo keeper Bradie Durell said they weighed, measured and marked the tortoises before release to monitor their growth and progress in the reserve over coming years.
Mr Durell said the program had successfully bred more than 1040 western swamp tortoises since it started almost 30 years ago.
The species’ recovery actions are part of the department’s wildlife program Western Shield and involves Perth Zoo, UWA, the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise community group and Ellen Brockman Integrated Catchment Group.
The Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise group will hold its AGM on September 23 at Perth Zoo, meeting outside the Labouchere Road entrance from 10am and go into the zoo at 10.20 for a 10.30 start.
Attendees will have a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the western swamp tortoise breeding facility after the meeting.
One of the western swamp tortoises released at Moore River.