One of the world's most critically endangered reptiles has received a boost to its population thanks to a record breeding year and new releases to the wild.

This season, 65 western swamp tortoises were successfully bred at Perth Zoo, and a further 73 older zoo-bred animals have been released into the wild.

Two groups of tortoises were released into habitat in the State's South-West in the hope of developing a new self-sustaining wild population.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and researchers from the University of Western Australia's School of Biological Sciences released 16 tortoises east of Augusta and a further 57 into a swamp at nearby Scott National Park.

Forty-eight tortoises were fitted with radio transmitters and data loggers to allow scientists from the University of Western Australia to continue to track the animals' movements and collect valuable data on the outcomes of the release. 

This translocation effort follows a pilot program conducted in 2016 and 2018 in the South-West to determine whether these types of habitats were suitable for the species and could provide a solution to the effects of climate change on the swamp tortoises' natural habitat near Perth.

These habitats are protected and managed for biodiversity conservation and are included in DBCA's Western Shield program, which conducts routine fox control to protect vulnerable native wildlife like the western swamp tortoise from the threat of predation.

Foxes remain a key threat to our native wildlife.  Western Shield is actively reducing the impact of foxes and feral cats on WA's native animals, with a particular focus on threatened species.

These new habitats could complement areas of remnant bushland north of Perth which continue to provide critical habitat for the survival of the western swamp tortoise through Ellenbrook and Twin Swamp nature reserves.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson:

 

"This record year is a milestone worth celebrating for the western swamp tortoise conservation efforts and is a testament to the hard work of the staff at DBCA, Perth Zoo and all scientific researchers and volunteers involved.

 

"It's wonderful to watch this collaborative breed-for-release program become more successful each year as it works to safeguard this rare and unique West Australian species.

 

"I look forward to hearing how the tortoises go now that they are released into the new safe habitat east of Augusta and in Scott National Park."

Page reviewed 03 Dec 2021