The Western Swamp Tortoise is a small tortoise found in a narrow corridor of the Swan Coastal Plain in Western Australia. It’s believed they once inhabited the clay soil areas of the Swan Valley north of Perth until it was developed for agriculture after the arrival of European settlers in 1829.
Adult males can reach a length of up to 155mm and weigh 550g, whereas females reach 135mm and weigh 410g. Hatchlings range between 24-99mm and weigh a tiny 3.2-6.6g at the time of hatching.
Western Swamp Tortoises are unique in that they hibernate during summer and not winter like many other tortoises, which must be replicated to successfully breed the species within zoos.
For more than 100 years it was thought the Western Swamp Tortoise had gone extinct until it was rediscovered in 1953. In the 1980s it was estimated that there were less than 30 tortoises left in the wild with the wild population fluctuating between 40 to 120 individuals by 2001. Habitat loss and predation from introduced species such as foxes, cats, dogs and pigs has severely threatened the wild population.
A successful breeding and recovery program lead by Perth Zoo has seen wild numbers increase to nearly 200 individuals over recent years. Tortoises bred at Adelaide Zoo are likely to be released back into the wild when the reach maturity.