Ellen Brook Nature Reserve
Ellen Brook Nature Reserve is an A Class Nature Reserve created in 1962 to protect western swamp tortoise habitat. The reserve is 83 hectares (ha) It has been designated as an IUCN Category Ia Reserve since 1966. Ellen Brook Nature Reserve is the only self-sustaining natural western swamp tortoise population.
In 2021 a devastating fire swept through the reserve, burning over 90% of the vegetation. Luckily, Mother Nature protects the tortoise by sending them underground during summer to escape the heat and fires, so there was only one fatality.
However, when the tortoises come out of their aestivation tunnels in May/June, there will be no plants for them to hid under. The Friends Group has sourced over 14000 tubestock to revegetate the reserve, but it will take many years of planting and growth before the cover is suitable.
Ellen Brook Nature Reserve after the fire
Twin Swamps Nature Reserve
Twin Swamps Nature Reserve is also an A Class Nature Reserve created in 1962 to protect western swamp tortoise habitat. The reserve is 151 ha. The reserve was designated as an IUCN Category IV Reserve in 1966. The Reserve contains a natural western swamp tortoise population however the population has been boosted with captive bred individuals since 1994. Water levels have been supplemented with groundwater pumping since 1994 to combat drying climate conditions.
To support the long-term survival of the western swamp tortoise, two translocation areas were established at Moore River Nature Reserve and Lake Wannamal Nature Reserve in August 2007 and August 2000 respectively. The areas were chosen based upon the best available land at the time for the species to survive and remain viable in the long-term. These reserves contain translocated captive-bred western swamp tortoise populations that show natural recruitment and on occasion are supplemented with additional captive-bred tortoises.
78 individuals were translocated to Moore River in 2018, and are doing well.
Research indicates that climate change may make some of the current habitat unviable for the western swamp tortoise in the future. Research has been ongoing for several years and locations in the cooler, wetter south west of WA have been chosen for trial translocations.