Slow and steady for 50 years

Turtle biologist Gerald Kuchling and Environment Minister Albert Jacob with a radio tracked Western Swamp Tortoise. Right: a juvenile Western swamp tortoise.
Turtle biologist Gerald Kuchling and Environment Minister Albert Jacob with a radio tracked Western Swamp Tortoise. Right: a juvenile Western swamp tortoise.

The Western Swamp Tortoise is found only in a limited range on the Swan Coastal Plain and is Australia’s most endangered reptile.

No. 4 was marked on October 2, 1963, after the species, believed to be extinct, was rediscovered by Phd student Andrew Burbidge.

‘She was the fourth Western Swamp Tortoise to be tagged in the world, she was an adult then and now she is about 65 years old. She has apparently been breeding which is wonderful as she is so old,’ Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise chairperson Jan Bant said.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the establishment of both Ellen Brook and Two Swamps nature reserves in 1962 had been a key milestone in securing the future of the endangered species.

He said tortoise No.4 was being radio-tracked today and was the oldest surviving animal to have been monitored.

‘It is thanks to Perth Zoo, state government scientist Dr Andrew Burbidge and turtle biologist Dr Gerald Kuchling who have brought the species back from extinction,’ Mr Jacob said.

‘This is living proof of our conservation efforts and that working together can make a difference in the long term.’

Mr Jacob said the State Government recently allocated $500,000 of State Natural Resource Management funding over three years to continue monitoring and implementing recovery action of the Western Swamp Tortoise.

‘We have committed $1 million for a new captive breeding facility to continue the program’s success,’ Mr Jacob said.