Western Swamp Tortoises on the move

Two swamp tortoises found while radio tracking (Image – Bethany Nordstrom)

In addition to losing much of their habitat on the Swan Coastal Plain, our tortoises face the additional threat of climate change, as the seasonal swamps they inhabit will hold water for increasingly shorter periods of time. Recovery of the western swamp tortoise depends on securing and drought-proofing high-quality habitat in their indigenous range (in particular in and around Ellen Brook NR) and exploring new conservation options that account for future climate change.

One of these options is assisted colonisation – the intentional translocation of species outside their indigenous range to mitigate a threat – and has been explored as an option for the swamp tortoise by a team at the University of Western Australia (UWA) for over a decade. Assisted colonisation trials to wetlands near the south coast began in 2016, with juveniles bred at The Perth Zoo. These southern wetlands have longer hydroperiods than those near Perth, but are also cooler, and are expected to offer ideal microclimates for western swamp tortoises in about 20 years. Juveniles fared particularly well in a small trial wetland near the township of East Augusta, and grew comparable amounts to those released at Moore River National Park in the same year. See the full story here