Tortoise VHS and GPS

If you travel to Las Vegas anytime soon, know that you will be in the neighborhood of 36 special tortoises. The San Diego Global Action Team recently released the animals into the Mojave Desert from a conservation center near Las Vegas.

One of the Desert TortoisesDesert tortoises are considered threatened in the wild. The release is the outcome of a project that the San Diego Zoo, with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Bureau of Land Management, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, has been working on since 2009. Since joining this partnership, the Zoo added veterinary services to diagnose and treat tortoises on site, modified enclosures to add space for quarantine and create predator-proof hatchling pens, and established biosecurity and processing protocols. They conducted outreach programs to educate the surrounding communities and tortoise custodians and doubled its full-time staff. Conservation research projects and a pet desert tortoise pick-up service were implemented.

The Team has attached VHS radio transmitters to the shell backs of the released tortoises so they can track them. 24 of the 36 animals are also donning GPS units that will provide detailed data about the animals’ movements and their preferred environment. As well, data collectors have been set up inside and outside of burrows, to provide temperature and humidity readings so the Team will know the best conditions into which to release the tortoises.

The Team’s actions and research are designed to give desert tortoises the greatest chance for survival. Let’s hope they are one species that can be saved.

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Alison Wheatley

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