Perth Zoo has won a prestigious national award for its breeding-for-release program for Australia’s most critically endangered reptile, the western swamp tortoise.
Environment Minister Judy Edwards today said Perth Zoo had successfully bred 590 western swamp tortoises since 1990 and provided 316 tortoises for release into the wild, with a further 54 animals released last weekend.
Dr Edwards said the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria awarded Perth Zoo the 2005 In situ Conservation Award in recognition of its exceptional effort towards species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild.
“The zoo’s successful breeding-for-release program is part of a broader recovery program, led by the Department of Conservation and Land Management, which aims to prevent the western swamp tortoise becoming extinct,” the Minister said.
“This short-necked freshwater tortoise species was on the brink of extinction with only 25 to 30 animals left in the wild before this innovative recovery program was put in place.
“As part of the recovery program, the colony of more than 180 western swamp tortoises at Perth Zoo provides an important insurance policy against catastrophic events in the wild as well as providing breeding stock for release.”
The tortoises bred at Perth Zoo have been released by CALM and Dr Gerald Kuchling, from the University of Western Australia (UWA), into protected reserves cleared of feral predators.
“The recovery program has established a wild population at Twin Swamps Nature Reserve and a new wild population at Mogumber Nature Reserve and helped secure the original population of this species at Ellen Brook Nature Reserve,” Dr Edwards said.
“Fox-proof fences around habitats within Ellen Brook and Twin Swamps Nature Reserves have been erected, land at Mogumber has been bought to protect the tortoises, and fox control programs are undertaken.
“The success of the Recovery Plan is due to the high level of co-operation among the Western Swamp Tortoise Recovery Team members with input from UWA, CALM, Perth Zoo, the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise which is involved in habitat protection in the re-introduction sites.”
Minister's office: 9220 5050