A project and study conducted by local researchers, believe that relocating the endangered Western Swamp Tortoise will give the species a better chance of survival. Their native habitat resides on the outskirts of Perth, Australia, but unfortunately due to the rise in unnatural temperature and the decrease in necessary rainfall, many species are finding it difficult to adapt to the new climate. In order to protect this already rare species, they relocated 3 dozen tortoises 200 miles south of their original location – hoping this new landscape will be the factor of their survival in the wild.
Relocating animals to a new location, with new climate, resources and other dire factors can be a huge gamble when it comes to the species adaptation and livelihood. It can have unpredictable and dire consequences that lead to partial downfalls in that location's ecosystem. One very common occurrence is the introduction of a then developed invasive species. An invasive species, at its most basic level, is a species integrated into a location non native to them, eventually causing ecological harm to the environment around them.
As the Earth’s overall temperature increases, due to global warming and climate change, environmental phenomena such as rainfall, humidity, water levels, the ground heat and many other factors can either decrease or increase – changing the natural make up of a set area. Ultimately bringing risk to many species of animals, plants and insects, pushing them to different terrain and if internally pushed enough – possible extinction.
The phases of the tortoise relocation was conducted by Nicole Mitchell, associate Professor of Conservation Physiology at the University of Western Australia and her team of researchers. The issue first caught Mitchell’s attention back in 2008, when the effects of climate change started to alter certain environments. This specific group of tortoises have lived in that location for over 100 years, so its longer life cycle is more difficult to evolve to its ever changing surroundings.
The tortoises were relocated to the wetlands of Scott National Park in Western Australia, where the temperatures are naturally colder than what the species is used to but Mitchell believes in 50 years that location will have the ideal temperature for this species, and possibly many others. The researchers attached trackers to the tortoises' shells to monitor their vitals, movement and overall adaptation.
This project was the third batch of tortoises to be released into the wetlands of Western Australia, the other locations were deemed unsuccessful due to the scarcity in food sources.
There is a proposed question of whether or not mankind should manipulate nature, if even they believe it’s for its survival. Nature has a funny way of adapting to the changes of the set environment, but when it gets to a level of no return, when should humans interfere?
“Do we let nature run its course and let our species die because of climate change? Is that a natural ending? Or do we have an ethical responsibility to save these species?” - Nicole Mitchell