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Western Swamp Tortoise

Why did the tortoise cross the road?

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Believed to be extinct, a schoolboy spotted one on a Swan Valley road in 1953.

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.

Saving Wildlife Together: 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. Help us continue our work to save the Western Swamp Tortoise. By breeding these little guys for release, we're able to boost their numbers in the wild into areas protected by the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Find out how you can help.

At Perth Zoo: 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.

Australian Wetlands
Other name
Yarkiny (Nyoongar), Short-necked Tortoise
Scientific name
Pseudemydura umbrina
Conservation status
Critically Endangered
Body length
11–13 cm
300–450 g
6 months
Number of eggs

From the blog

Western Swamp Tortoises hatching at Perth Zoo

Where you can find me

Where you can find me

Map of Perth Zoo highlighting the Australian Wetlands