Tortoise numbers rising
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.