Tortoises relocated ahead of climate change danger

A western swamp tortoise (Department of Parks and Wildlife)
A western swamp tortoise (Department of Parks and Wildlife)

A group of tortoises in west Australia have found a new place to call home, after fears their territory would be ravaged by climate change.

The 24 western swamp tortoises were bred in captivity at Perth Zoo, but have been relocated to conservation reserves south of Northcliffe. It's the first time a vertebrate animal species has been moved from the territory it's historically called home in an attempt to find a new habitat, according to Australian Environment Minister Albert Jacob.

Once released, the 24 tortoises will be monitored for 12 months.

"Growth rates and the diet of the tortoises released into the cooler and wetter conditions at Meerup and east of Augusta will be compared with those from the 12 tortoises released at an existing assisted colonisation site at Moore River Nature Reserve," Mr Jacob says.

"This will help to determine the suitability of the southern sites."

The western swamp tortoise is critically endangered and Mr Jacob says the new habitat brings new hope for the species.

Climate modelling suggests its regular territory, two clay swamps in the Swan Valley, could become uninhabitable by 2050.

The relocation is part of Western Shield, a recovery program by the Department of Parks and Wildlife aiming to help native species.