“Dinosaur turtle” once feared extinct found alive in Western Australia

“Dinosaur turtle” once feared extinct found alive in Western Australia

By Ashmeeta Subra  January 17th, 2024

One of Australia’s rarest reptiles and a survivor from a 2018 relocation program, a western swamp tortoise (or turtle), has been found alive near Northcliffe, WA.


Southern Forests Wildlife carer, Pauline Hewitt, was thrilled to have spotted one of the country’s rarest reptiles on the dirt track near her home at Northcliffe, years after it was relocated there. The relocation initiative in 2018 rehomed captive-bred tortoise, testing their ability to thrive colder, wetter conditions in the South West.

Described as resembling a "dinosaur turtle" by Ms Hewitt, the species has distinctive features when compared to most modern-day turtles, including a lumpy neck and feet.

Despite its cracked shell, the tortoise was otherwise unharmed and reported to be in good health after being taken into Perth Zoo to have its shell repaired.

"So this is one of the turtles that remained and the really exciting part about it was this turtle was in fabulous condition, even though she had a cracked shell,” Hewitt told ABC news.

According to estimates from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attraction (DBCA), there are less than 300 western swamp tortoises left in the wild, including the young animals raised in captivity at Perth Zoo and later released as part of the relocation program.

The discovery in Northcliffe has sparked hope the area could become a future stronghold for the western swamp tortoise, a species one feared extinct until it was rediscovered on the outskirts of Perth in the 1950s.

"There are so very few of them that to know that some have survived down here in our wetlands, it's just amazing — it means there possibly could be a future for them," Hewitt said.

According to DBCA’s Dr Gerald Kuchling, the continued trials in the South West aim to find suitable new homes for the species' survival in the face of climate change.

The success of the tortoise's growth since its release in 2018 presents new hope for long-term survival through relocation efforts. Currently, the Northcliffe region is already home to other threatened species, including the mainland Quokka.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Ashmeeta Subra

With background in international relations and marketing communications, Ashmeeta is excited to use her skills to encourage positive environmental actions through Planet Ark. She believes that by taking small actions, we can help make a big difference and be good stewards of our planet. Outside of work, she loves spending time in nature and enjoying downtime at the beach.

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