Two Australian zoos are teaming up to help save the continent's most endangered reptile. With fewer than 200 individuals left in the wild, the critically endangered western swamp tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina) needs all the help it can get.

In collaboration with Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), both Adelaide Zoo and Perth Zoo are working together to breed, hatch and successfully reintroduce the tortoises to their natural habitat.

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Western swamp tortoise eggs. Image: Adelaide Zoo

Four tortoises hatched this year at Adelaide, making it the zoo's most successful breeding season to date. 

"One little tortoise hatched on March 28th [a full two weeks ahead of schedule]. It was keen to see the world a little sooner than its brothers and sisters," says staff member Minnie McCreanor. 

Once they emerge from their eggs, the baby tortoises are weighed, measured and given a spot pattern identification code by the zoo staff. 

"We use nail polish to make two dots on the tortoise's shell," says Bradie Durrell, a swamp tortoise keeper at Perth Zoo. "A key allows us to know exactly which hatchling is which".

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Two baby western swamp tortoises stand next to a 10c piece. Image: Adelaide Zoo

The tortoises are currently smaller than an Australian 10c coin – a mere 2.3 centimetres in diameter. Yes, 2.3 centimetres … take a moment to wrap your mind around the thought: the turtles are only twice as long as a grain of jasmine rice. 

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Tortoise parade. Image: Adelaide Zoo

Once feared extinct, western swamp tortoises were rediscovered in 1953, but today are found in only two swamp reserves in Western Australia. Because these swamps dry out each summer, climate change and human impact pose a huge threat to the tortoises and their habitat.

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Many of the zoo's tortoises will be released into the wild when they reach maturity. Image: Adelaide Zoo

It will take three to five years for the babies to reach maturity, at which time they will be turned over to the DEC for reintroduction to the wild. 

In case you can't get enough of that endearing tortoise grin, you can catch video of the hatching in this week's episode of two-minute roundup!