This is Australia's most Endangered reptile with fewer than 300 left. The small Western Swamp Tortoise spends 6 to 9 months buried in soil and leaves, and becomes active when the winter rains come. Its also sometimes refered to as the "western SHORT NECKED tortoise"
The Western Swamp Tortoise has become endangered due to 4 main factors
1) Drainage of there swamps for agriculture use
2) Decline of habitat due to drought and bush fires
3) Naturally hunted by birds, snakes and lizards
4) Hunted by introduced foxes, dogs, cats and rats
The first European description of the Western Swamp Tortoise was in 1839, and since it was not sighted again was thought to be extinct until in 1954 a Perth schoolboy showed one at a "Pet Show"
Western Swamp Tortoises hunt in shallow waters and edges of their swamps on, tadpoles crustaceans, insect larvae, field shrimps and oligochaete worms in their short time of activity
The remaining Western Swamp Tortoise population is restricted to 2 seasonal (winter-wet) swamps. 1 at Ellen Brooks Nature Reserve and one at Twin Swamps Nature Reserve (presently being restocked from Perth Zoo). These 2 swamps are found on the northern fringe of Perth (Western Australias capital city).
Since 1988 Perth Zoo has been running a "captive breeding program" for Western Swamp Tortoises. The zoo has successfully bred 459 Western Swamp Tortoise since 1989.
Since 1994, 318 Western Swamp Tortoises have been placed back into the wild at Ellenbrook, Twin Swamps, Mogumber Nature Reserves and Harry Waring Marsupial Reserve Click on this line to find out more at PERTH ZOO's site
The Western Swamp Tortoise is the smallest Australian tortoise
Its colouring is usually Brown above with a whitish/yellowish tinge below
The Western Swamp Tortoises shell (squarish horny casque) length of 14 cms, is longer than its small neck and head even when fully extended
They weigh on average 300g to 400g
The head and neck are retracted sideways into its shell
A strong odour is emitted when the Western Swamp Turtle is roughly handled
The swamps where this turtle is found are formed by winter rains being retained in shallow clay depressions that form deep gilgai holes and fissures.
The Western Swamp Tortoise spend six to nine months aestivating (dormat) in gilgai (a type of soil) holes or deep leaf litter. Individuals become active when their habitat becomes flooded (usually by winter rains) and the water temperature exceeds 14 degrees C.
In mid summer the female Western Swamp Tortoise lays 3-5 hard shell eggs in a sandy hollow which she then covers.
6 months later following the first winter rain they hatch.
Hatchlings require two successive years of good growth to reach a size that will allow survival through a subsequent drought year.
Growth is very slow and the Western Swamp Tortoise take 10 to 15 or more years to mature, and live to an approaxamte age of 40 -50 years.