Other names: Short-necked Tortoise
Scientific Name: Pseudemydura umbrina
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Length (nose to tail): 11–13 cm
Weight: 300–450 g
Incubation: 6 months
Number of eggs: 3–5
Distribution: Swan valley, Western Australia
Habitat: Swamps (ephemeral).
Description: Western Swamp Tortoises have a brown or black shell, a short neck covered with tuberacles (knobbles) and webbed toes with five claws on each foot.
Diet: Western Swamp Tortoises are carnivores and eat small invertebrates.
In the wild: Western Swamp Tortoises live in swamps that only fill during the winter and spring. While the swamps contain water, the tortoises swim around and feed on small aquatic invertebrates, tadpoles and frogs. When the swamps are dry they aestivate (summer equivalent of hibernation) in holes in the ground or under deep leaf litter.
Threats: The Western Swamp Tortoise is the most endangered Australian reptile. With limited numbers and habitat remaining they are very vulnerable to any changes including land clearing for housing and agriculture, use of pesticides and fertilisers and fire. Climate change also poses a potential threat. Perth has recently experienced drier winters. If swamps dry too early, females may not produce eggs. Feral predators like cats, rats and foxes also eat tortoises and tortoise eggs.
At Perth Zoo: Since 1989, Perth Zoo has bred more than 800 Western Swamp Tortoises of which 600 have been released to boost their numbers in the wild. When the tortoises reach 100 g in weight (about three years of age), they are released into managed wild habitats by the Department of Parks and Wildlife. The release sites include Twin Swamps Nature Reserve, Ellenbrook Nature Reserve, Mogumber Nature Reserve and Moore River Nature Reserve.
The Western Swamp Tortoise exhibit is in the Australian Wetlands.
Did you know? The Western Swamp Tortoise was feared extinct for over 100 years. By chance they were rediscovered in 1953 and found to still live in two small habitats in the Swan Valley.
The Western Swamp Tortoise exhibit is proudly sponsored by Boral.