Western Swamp Tortoises are very small, growing up to 15 centimeters in shell length. They have a brown or black shell, a short neck covered by tuberacles (knobbles), webbed toes with five claws on each foot which and they are yellow with black dots underneath.
Habitat and Distribution
Restricted to only four wild populations in Western Australia, two in the Swan Valley and two in the Moore River region near Perth. During winter and spring, the tortoises live in the water of ephemeral wetlands. In the drier, hotter months they shelter under leaf litter and in holes and aestivate (sleep) until winter.
The Western Swamp Tortoise has always had a very restricted range and much of this has been modified or destroyed. Rainfall has also been decreasing in its habitat which means that the wetlands where it lives are not filling up as much as they need to. Foxes prey on the tortoises and recent summer wildfires have also killed many tortoises during aestivation. Feral predators like cats, rats and foxes also eat tortoises and tortoise eggs. Working with the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth Zoo breeds Western Swamp Tortoises for release into protected habitat as part of a species recovery program. Over 560 Western Swamp Tortoises bred at Perth Zoo have been released into the wild (2011 figure).
Western Swamp Tortoises are carnivorous and eat aquatic insects, larvae and tadpoles.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Western Swamp Tortoises mate in June through to August. Females lay their eggs in late October through to early December. Hatchlings emerge in late March through to late May. While the rate of breeding among the species is slow – they take eight to fifteen years to mature – in suitable conditions these tortoises can have a long life span and have been known to lay eggs past the age of 60.
Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise www.westernswamptortoise.com
The Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise help raise money for vital research, equipment and habitat restoration, as well as playing a major role in community education and awareness.
The Zoo and Aquarium Association acknowledges Perth Zoo for providing the factsheet information above.