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More western swamp tortoises released into wild

Nicola Owen and Riley Peters with some of the soon-to-be-released western swamp tortoises
Nicola Owen and Riley Peters with some of the soon-to-be-released western swamp tortoises Parks and Wildlife

Western Australia’s efforts in saving the nation’s most endangered reptile have continued with the release of 20 juvenile western swamp tortoises at Twin Swamps Nature Reserve in Perth’s northern suburbs.

Department of Parks and Wildlife senior research scientist Gerald Kuchling said Saturday’s release would strengthen numbers of the critically endangered tortoises living in the wild.

From the 1960s to the early 1980s there were only two known and monitored wild western swamp tortoise populations, at the Twin Swamps and Ellenbrook nature reserves, and by 1985 the population at Twin Swamps was nearly extinct,” Dr Kuchling said.

“Translocations at this reserve have been taking place for 21 years and as a result the wild population has stabilised and increased in recent times, which is very encouraging.

“Tortoises for the most recent release were bred at Perth Zoo and were weighed, measured and marked to ensure their growth and progress in the reserve can be monitored over coming years.”

Western swamp tortoises are a long-lived native species but take around eight to 15 years to mature and have a slow breeding rate.

Dr Kuchling said captive bred tortoises were released into the wild aged around three-years-old.

“They are less vulnerable to predators and to drought than hatchlings, but they still face many challenges to reach adulthood,” he said.

“Twin Swamps Nature Reserve is the best place for the translocation this year because it has a fox-proof fence around it and the clay-based swamps are supplemented with groundwater from a bore to ensure the wetlands are viable during drier winters and springs.”

The Western Swamp Tortoise Recovery Program is coordinated by Parks and Wildlife, in partnership with Perth Zoo, the University of Western Australia and the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise community group.

 

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