One of the world’s most critically endangered reptiles is getting a boost to its wild population with 73 individuals bred at Perth Zoo being released into their natural habitat.
Parks and Wildlife Service staff and scientists from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions will be releasing the young tortoises, ranging from two to four-years-old into Moore River Nature Reserve, north of Perth.
Since 2007, 192 juvenile Western Swamp Tortoises have been released at Moore River. Some have since reached maturity and produced new hatchlings of their own.
The Western Swamp Tortoise was once thought to be extinct and 30 years ago there were less than 50 individuals remaining on the planet.
The breeding program for this species was established behind the scenes of Perth Zoo in 1988, helping to bring it back from the brink of extinction. To date, 1090 tortoises have been hatched at the Zoo and 788 of those have been released to the wild.
Before the upcoming release the 73 Tortoises will be weighed, measured and marked or microchipped to ensure their identity and progress can be monitored over the years.
Western Swamp Tortoises are a long-lived native species, but it can take eight to 15 years before they mature and are ready to breed.
Moore River Nature Reserve offers good habitat and ongoing control of feral predators, increasing the chances of survival for this critically endangered species.
As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“This is the largest single release of Western Swamp Tortoises hatched at Perth Zoo to be released into the wild.
“Three decades ago, there were less than 50 of these rare reptiles left on the planet.
“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, the Western Swamp Tortoise Recovery Team and key supporters such as the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise, we will soon see the 800th Western Swamp Tortoise released into the wild.
“We are working together to safeguard a future for these rare and unique WA reptiles.”