World Turtle News, 07/11/2017
Desert Tortoises Gone Captive
In 1922, the biologist Edmund Carroll Jaeger, a careful chronicler of the life of the Mojave Desert, described desert tortoises as “excellent pets.” They have a “certain nobility of form,” he observed in Denizens of the Desert. “Nature has withheld from them the gift of expression,” Jaeger wrote, “but they may speak to us just the same, teaching us simplicity, humility and gentleness.”
Since then, the pet desert tortoise population in the Southwest has grown exponentially. At the same time, the wild desert tortoise population has diminished due to threats such as human development destroying the species’ habitat and diseases such as herpesvirus, shell diseases, and respiratory disease.
“Today you’d be hard-pressed to find animals close to the shoulder of these highways,” Egan said. Meanwhile, the population of domesticated tortoises continues to grow, creating unique challenges for animal welfare organizations that already struggle to find homes for them.
“Tortoises in backyards have ideal conditions, so they reproduce like crazy,” said C. Richard Tracy, a University of Nevada Reno biologist who researches the Mojave Desert tortoise.”
Then there’s the problem of what Mortimer calls “tortoise hoarders.” On a searing Las Vegas afternoon in late June, Mortimer raised the trunk of her silver Jeep Patriot to reveal 11 plastic crates, tortoises tapping at the boxes’ sides. Mortimer had just come from a house call, during which she picked up 20 desert tortoises from one tortoise hoarder.
Four years ago, Nevada wildlife officials made it illegal to keep more than one desert tortoise as a pet, but most caretakers were grandfathered in. With backyard breeding, several desert tortoises can, over a few years, turn into dozens. Hoarders call the Tortoise Group to put their pets up for adoption, and Mortimer has stories about hoarders who have more than 50 tortoises in their yard. “It’s really difficult to tell how many tortoises you even have,” Mortimer said.
Click the link to read more about the problem…
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This Week In Turtles…
Sea Turtle Research in Costa Rica talk – July 13 @ 19:00 – 20:00 Civic Centre, Atikokan, ON, P0T 1C0, Canada
The Turtle Lady interactive talk July 17 @ 18:30 – 19:30 Delaware County District Library – Powell 460 S Liberty Rd Powell, OH 43065, USA
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Photo from Daniel Rothberg.