A CRITICALLY endangered reptile once thought to be extinct will be getting a population boost in the biggest single release to the wild this week.
There will be 73 Western Swamp Tortoises hatched at Perth Zoo to be released to their natural habitat, in the single biggest wild release of the animal.
Parks and Wildlife Service staff will release young tortoises, ranging from two to four-years-old into Moore River Nature Reserve, north of Perth.
There were less than 50 individuals remaining on the planet 30 years ago but a breeding program established at Perth Zoo in 1988 helped bring it back from the brink of extinction.
Each of the 73 Tortoises will be weighed, measured and marked or microchipped to ensure their progress can be monitored over the years.
Moore River Nature Reserve offers good habitat and ongoing control of feral predators, increasing the chances of survival for this critically endangered species.
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said this was 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,” he said.
“Since 1988, we’ve had a very successful breeding program in Perth Zoo, we’ve hatched about 1090 in that time and 788 have been released in the wild.
Since 2007, 192 juvenile Western Swamp Tortoises have been released into Moore River.
“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,” Mr Dawson said.
The Western Swamp Tortoise is native to WA and its natural predators are introduced species including foxes.