“Only if we understand will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved (Dr Jane Goodall)”.
On Friday the 24th of August I had the privilege of being part of the release of 12 critically endangered Western Swamp Tortoises aged between 2 and 4 years. The tortoises were bred at Perth Zoo and joined the last staining population of Western Swamp Tortoises in Ellenbrook Nature Reserve. The recovery program has been coordinated by WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions and includes the University of WA, Perth Zoo, Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
One of the most endangered reptiles in Australia, the Western Swamp Tortoise was thought to be extinct until 1953 when it was rediscovered. Since 1989 Perth Zoo has bred more than 900 (April 2018) of these special tortoises. This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when organisations work together to implement a recovery program.
It was an incredible experience to be a part of with approximately 50 other passionate people. I was fortunate enough to release one of the 12 tortoises into the shallow swamp. I feel incredibly honoured to be able to handle and observe such amazing critically endangered tortoises.
Sophie Leonard is a National Youth Leader with at Roots & Shoots Australia. You can find out more about Sophie here.