- Critically endangered western swamp tortoise missing for six years returned to Twin Swamps Nature Reserve
- New wildlife protection penalties to deter taking and smuggling of native species
The release of a critically endangered western swamp tortoise back into its natural habitat has highlighted the importance of new wildlife conservation legislation in Western Australia.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the tortoise, one of only about 50 adult western swamp tortoises living in the wild, was seized by wildlife officers during a police operation at a property in Gidgegannup in August 2016.
"The survival and recovery of this particular western swamp tortoise is remarkable," Mr Jacob said. "This adult male was bred at Perth Zoo in 1991, released into Twin Swamps Nature Reserve at Bullsbrook in 1994, and tracked until its disappearance in 2010.
"Six years later, and after health checks and a period of quarantine at Perth Zoo, this tortoise has returned to the wild at the same reserve."
The Minister said the western swamp tortoise was the most endangered Australian reptile and it was illegal to keep the animal captive.
"The Liberal National Government's new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 has much tougher penalties for offences involving threatened species," he said.
"Under this legislation, a person found in possession of, or attempting to smuggle, a critically endangered species such as the western swamp tortoise, will face a maximum fine of $500,000. This rises to $2.5 million for a corporation.
"These strong new laws and effective penalties will help deter future wildlife crimes and provide much greater protection for the State's native animals, particularly threatened species."
The Department of Parks and Wildlife was able to identify the tortoise by its markings as number 228. It was among the first batch of 10 captive-bred juvenile western swamp tortoises bred at Perth Zoo and released into the wild.
- The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 will replace the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Sandalwood Act 1929 when the associated regulations are established in 2017
- The maximum penalty for an offence involving a threatened species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 is $10,000
- The western swamp tortoise is thought to live for more than 60 years and reaches sexual maturity between eight to 15 years
Minister's office - 6552 5800