Friday, September 30, 2011

desert tortoise

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In the Western Mojave Desert, there is a species that is slowly disappearing. This fragile creature has been around for hundreds of years, but because of the condition of their environment, they may not be around for long. The Desert Tortoise is a threatened specie that needs to be protected. Some reasons why the tortoise is diminishing is due to habitat degradation from overgrazing, disease, raven predation, and collection for pets. It is now illegal to harm, touch, or hunt a desert tortoise. These species deserve to live in their natural habitat and deserve to be protected.

Habitat Degradation

Overgrazing from cattle is one of the problems that face the tortoises. The tortoises eat herbs, grasses and some shrubs. After a desert rain, the tortoises love to eat wildflowers or new cacti and their flowers. If the weather is dry, tortoises eat any dry plants they can find. The problem is that cattle usually get to all these plants before the tortoises can, leaving the tortoises with not much to eat. The tortoises are left scrounging for food. There are too many cattle with not enough vegetation to go around.

Another problem is road development, highways, and the use of off-road vehicles in the desert. Road development clears way the natural habitat of the tortoises. Since the tortoises don’t know any better, they often try to cross highways but get ran-over by cars. The use off-road vehicles also damage the habitat in which the tortoises live. The sound of the vehicles scare the tortoises away from there familiar surrounding in which they move to unfamiliar surrounds. Along with road development, there is also land development. As more housing is constructed to provide for our growing community, the habitat for the tortoises disappears under concrete, fast food restaurants, and shopping malls.

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The most common disease that desert tortoises get is upper respiratory tract disease. This disease is very common but is still unknown what causes it or why it is so common. This disease causes mild to severe nasal discharge, puffy eye lids, and causes their skin to become dull and their shells to soften. Between 18 and 10, many dead tortoises shells were found that were linked to this disease and there was a major die-off in the desert tortoises. Some think that this disease is due to poor nutrition and dehydration. The tortoises aren’t getting the right amount vitamins and minerals to help keep their immune system at its best. Another factor in this disease is the release of captive desert tortoises that are infected.

The Desert Tortoise Life Cycle and the Raven

The Desert Tortoise has a slow life cycle. The age of sexual maturity in the wild is 14 to 0 years of age. Only 1 to 5 out of 100 tortoises make it to adulthood and are able to reproduce. These slow developing creatures make it hard for the specie to keep the population up. The female tortoise lays 1 to 14 eggs once a year. This time is very crucial time for the baby tortoise because tortoise eggs are one of the Raven’s favorite food. If a Raven finds the burrow where the eggs are incubating, they will more then likely feast on the whole clutch leaving no eggs to hatch. If the eggs get lucky and are not found by Raven’s in the incubating period, they will more then likely be found by Ravens after they are hatched. Newly hatched tortoises have soft shells and are susceptible to many predators. This one of the reasons my many tortoises do not get the chance to make it to adulthood. Those who hatch and live to become adults are very luck and rare.

Collection as Pets

Before the Desert Tortoise became a threatened specie, it was legal to pick up tortoises and keep them as pets. Many would be collected in large amount and would be put in pet shops and would be sold to the public. This would take wild tortoise out of their natural habitat and not give them a chance to reach adulthood in the wild and therefore they would have no chance to reproduce in the wild.

The Desert Tortoise is a threatened specie but I believe that the tortoise will makes its come back very slowly. I think we should put more fences along the highways so that the tortoises don’t try to cross and get ran-over. I also think that we need to limit the amount and the area that off-road vehicles have to use. Another solution maybe to try to stop overgrazing by cattle. Perhaps we could confine areas for cattle, and plant food especially for them. All in all, I believe that we are on the right track to help the Desert Tortoise gain back a healthy population. The Desert Tortoise is one of the many trademarks of Bibliography

Desert Tortoise. 4 Oct. 00 http//

Desert USA. 0 Oct. 00 http//

Tortoise Disease. 0 Oct. 00 http//

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