Tor­toises let loose in wild

North Coast Times - - NEWS -

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.

Pic­ture: Shem Bis­luk/DBCA

One of the west­ern swamp tor­toises re­leased at Moore River.

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