There’s always something hatching behind-the-scenes of Perth Zoo and during autumn it was the critically endangered, Western Swamp Tortoises.

More than 50 fertile eggs containing these rare reptiles were laid and hatched at the Zoo this breeding season.

While most hatchlings will crack out of their egg on their own, the Native Species Breeding program (NSBP) team had to provide some assistance for the tiny tortoises that were weeks overdue from hatching. Just as doctors would induce human babies well past their due date!

This little one pictured below is one of the tortoises that required manual hatching, and Perth Zoo Keeper, Lesley Shaw was up for the delicate task.

Holding the oval shaped egg carefully, Lesley moved a torch around it to help her see through the parchment-like shell, locating what position the tortoise was in. It’s like a DIY x-ray.

With steady hands she then chipped away some of the egg’s shell, revealing what the rest of us would only make out to be a dark green blur, but luckily the keepers know better.

“That’s its head tucked into the side and I can just make out one of its eyes,” Lesley said.

Even once the shell was opened enough it took a while before the hatchling raised its head to get its first look at the outside world. It really ‘tortoise’ a lesson in patience!

Lesley’s ‘eggshellent’ work was done for now and the hatchling would remain in its secured container until it was ready to emerge from its shell completely.

The young Western Swamp Tortoise was then checked over, measured and given a unique marking on its shell (nail polish is a handy tool), before being placed in one of the ponds for its very first swim!

Efforts to secure a future for the Western Swamp Tortoise is led by the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation (DBCA). Working with Parks and Wildlife WA there have been more than 1000 Western Swamp Tortoises hatched at Perth Zoo, and 788 of those have been released into the wild. #savingwildlifetogether

Melissa Leo - Perth Zoo Media and Communications Officer