Tor­toise numbers ris­ing

The Advocate (Perth) - - NEWS -

THIRTY western swamp tor­toises have a new home in the Moore River Na­ture Re­serve, thanks to conservation ef­forts to save the species.

Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Conservation and At­trac­tions re­leased the rep­tiles last week as part of conservation ef­forts to save one of Aus­tralia’s most crit­i­cally en­dan­gered rep­tiles from ex­tinc­tion.

Se­nior re­search sci­en­tist Ger­ald Kuch­ling said the Au­gust 29 re­lease was cru­cial to strengthen wild pop­u­la­tions of the species, with only four known and mon­i­tored pop­u­la­tions in WA.

“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 Above: One of the western swamp tor­toises re­leased in the Moore River Na­ture Re­serve. Be­low: Perth Zoo keeper Bradie Durell with a tor­toise. three sites since 1994,” he said.

“Moore River Na­ture Re­serve of­fers good habi­tat and on­go­ing con­trol of feral preda­tors and this translo­ca­tion al­lows us to boost the western swamp tor­toise pop­u­la­tion there, which was first es­tab­lished in 2007.

“Some of the 146 ju­ve­niles pre­vi­ously re­leased there have

al­ready reached ma­tu­rity and started breed­ing, with new hatch­lings recorded.”

Perth Zoo keeper Bradie Durell said they weighed, mea­sured and marked the tor­toises be­fore re­lease so they could mon­i­tor their growth and progress.

The Friends of the Western Swamp Tor­toise group will hold its AGM on Septem­ber 23 at Perth Zoo, meet­ing at the Labouchere Road en­trance at 10am. There will be a be­hindthe-scenes tour of the western swamp tor­toise breed­ing fa­cil­ity af­ter the meet­ing.

Visit www.west­ern­swamp tor­toise.com.au.

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