Rediscovered! The incredible Western Swamp Tortoise. Reminds me of kitties that have thumbs. (Source: The Conservation)

The Western Swamp Tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina) is Australia’s rarest reptile. Originally it was known only from a single specimen collected in 1839 from an unknown location in Western Australia. No others came to light until the 1950s when a Perth schoolboy found one walking across a road and took it to a wildlife show. Its significance was soon recognised, and Pseudemydura umbrina was resurrected as a living species.

With a maximum shell length of about 350mm, the Western Swamp Tortoise is the smallest Australian freshwater turtle and the only one where males are larger than females. During the winter, spring and early summer they live in temporary swamps, feeding on aquatic invertebrates. After the swamps dry in early summer they aestivate (sleep over summer) in holes in the ground or under leaf litter.

This winter/spring peak in activity is unusual for reptiles. It is also the only turtle or tortoise species where females dig the nest chamber with the fore limbs (rather than the hind limbs). Females usually lay a single clutch of three to five eggs each year. They may live for around 70 years.

Read all about their current status, threats, and conservation efforts here! 

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