Re­lease brings hope

The Advocate (Perth) - - FRONT PAGE - Lisa Thomas

TWELVE western swamp tor­toises have been re­leased at the Ellen Brook Na­ture Re­serve in 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 Bulls­brook 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.

He said the tor­toises in the re­serve were now self­sus­tain­ing and breed­ing.

“It’s been very sat­is­fy­ing watch­ing the tor­toises over the past 30 years. When I first came to WA in 1987, they didn’t breed in cap­tiv­ity and the pop­u­la­tion was down to 13,” he said.

Dr Kuch­ling said the suc­cess of the breed­ing pro­gram had been a re­sult of work from dif­fer­ent groups.

Perth Zoo zookeeper Bradie Durell has spent 12 years work­ing on the breed­ing pro­gram for the species.

He said it had been the most re­ward­ing job rais­ing the tor­toises for re­lease.

“It’s an amaz­ing job; I am pas­sion­ate about an­i­mals but to be in­volved in con­ser­va­tion as well is so re­ward­ing and know­ing you’re help­ing save an­i­mals from ex­tinc­tion,” he said.

“It’s bit­ter­sweet re­leas­ing them, but I am happy be­cause this is where they are meant to be.”

Pic­ture: David Baylis www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d485898

Friends of the Western Swamp Tor­toise chair Jan Bant and se­nior re­search sci­en­tist Ger­ald Kuch­ling with a young western swamp tor­toises be­ing re­leased in Ellen Brook.

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