Archive for the 'Desert Tortoise Conservation' Category

Tortoises Need Heat and Light

Posted at 2:09 pm August 16, 2010 by Rachel Foster

This healthy desert tortoise enjoys the warm sun.

We are reaching the mid-point of our second season here at the San Diego Zoo Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Las Vegas, and we are seeing an increase in the number of pet desert tortoises surrendered to the Pet Tortoise Hotline (702-488-9422), exactly what we were hoping for! However, a large number of these pet tortoises arrive with a number of different health issues, most resulting from improper housing and diet. These can lead to a number of different conditions ranging from upper respiratory conditions to metabolic bone disease.


Counting Tortoises

Posted at 11:51 am August 13, 2010 by Pam Cicoria

A juvenile tortoise found a home in the remains of an adult's shell.

From March to October 2010, we are focusing on completing the tortoise inventory at the San Diego Zoo Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) in Las Vegas, and I am happy to say that we are off to a running start! My job is to make sure we finish the inventory before the tortoises go into brumation this year, so I am supervising four seasonal research assistants (RAs) to make sure we get this challenging job done! Three of our four seasonal staff relocated to Las Vegas on June 1, and our fourth seasonal RA is a Las Vegas resident; all are eager for the opportunity to work with the desert tortoises. Little did they know they would be feeding tortoises at 5 a.m. and digging burrows at high noon in 112 degree Fahrenheit heat! (more…)

Desert Invasions

Posted at 9:14 am August 5, 2010 by Daniel Essary

A desert fire survivor.

This spring was more beautiful than ever. Due to higher-than-average rainfall this winter, many plants and animals are thriving in the Mojave Desert, a beautiful sight to see for desert rats like staff at the San Diego Zoo Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) in Las Vegas! Desert critters are feasting on a buffet of flowers such as the desert globemallow, which happens to be a desert tortoise favorite. We recently released healthy tortoise back into the wild, something no other organization in the state of Nevada is permitted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do, and we are confident that this release will be a huge success because of the ample forage available.


Feeding Frenzy

Posted at 4:12 pm July 30, 2010 by Larisa Gokool

A desert tortoise eyes the food bucket.

They see you before you even know they’re there, waiting, watching. Gingerly stepping from pen to pen, avoiding the prickly burrs and trying not to walk into a pointed yucca while carrying a gallon bucket of tortoise chow, you feel like you’re alone out here. Sure, you know a lack of visual confirmation means they’re in the burrows, but then you get comfortable, not expecting to see anyone or anything because of the temperature of the morning. “It must be too cold,” you think to yourself, back turned as you step into the next pen, eyes cast downward, watching your step. And just as you are embracing that alone time with the desert sunrise, you look up slowly, and fast approaching on those stubby, elephantine legs, five sets of eyes have you in their sights, and they want…the food bucket!


Desert Tortoise: NOT Apartment-friendly Pet

Posted at 9:46 am July 26, 2010 by Lori Scott

A desert tortoise in its natural habitat.

I’m happy to say the Pet Desert Tortoise Hotline is really catching on, giving us the opportunity to save more stray and unwanted desert tortoises and educate folks on the proper care for their pet tortoises. Manned by staff at the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) in Las Vegas, we’re also really excited to have a new employee join the team! Marissa Musso has come on board as the hotline assistant, and she’s doing a great job out on the front lines educating and working with the public. Marissa’s excellent people skills and cheerful demeanor have been a great asset for many of our hotline calls, especially when we’re faced with challenging cases of extreme pet desert tortoise neglect.


Desert Tortoise: Big Guy

Posted at 12:51 pm April 13, 2010 by Lori Scott

Lori and Big Guy

I recently joined the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) as the hotline coordinator, and my first few weeks have been quite a whirlwind! The highlight of my new position came with the very first call I took; that’s how I met Big Guy, a very special desert tortoise.

Although I’ve taken many calls since then, I can honestly say I was a bundle of nerves when my first call came in. As I answered the phone, I could hear in her voice that the caller was a bit nervous, too. (more…)

Tortoise Staff on Stage

Posted at 2:47 pm April 5, 2010 by Pam Cicoria

A desert tortoise at a burrow.

A few weeks ago, the San Diego Zoo’s DTCC (Desert Tortoise Conservation Center) staff excitedly loaded up the Ford Explorer and headed to Ontario, California, for a weekend-long symposium hosted by the Desert Tortoise Council. Every year at this time, a wide range of interested people, agencies, and organizations gather to discuss desert tortoise research, to share information, to spend time with colleagues, and to brainstorm solutions to the problems facing this threatened species.


New Lab Coordinator for Tortoises

Posted at 10:28 am April 1, 2010 by Larisa Gokool

Larisa holds a juvenile desert tortoise.

It was 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-12.7 degrees Celsius) when I boarded the plane that would deliver me from Boston to Las Vegas to become the San Diego Zoo’s newest research associate at its Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC). I boarded the plane wearing a heavy down-filled jacket, a wool scarf, insulating gloves, and calf-length suede boots; let me tell you, I was down to a T-shirt by the time I got outside McCarran airport!


Watch Where You Step!

Posted at 3:35 pm March 17, 2010 by Daniel Essary

A nickle placed on cryptobiotic soil shows how small the lichen is.

The desert soil is alive! Well, the soil itself isn’t really living, but life occurs throughout the soil of the Mojave Desert, so it’s important to always stay on designated trails and roads when you are in the desert.

Small microorganisms called cyanobacteria, which are from the same family as blue-green algae, actually live on the surface of bare soil in the desert. For most of the Mojave Desert, the soil is usually characterized by rough dark patches as shown in the photo, but these cyanobacteria, with the aid of different types of lichens, mosses, and other colonies of microorganisms, can sometimes produce colorful soil crusts. In both cases, the soils are called cryptobiotic crust.


Desert Tortoise Hotline

Posted at 10:34 am March 14, 2010 by Angie Sawyer

A DTCC staff member on a pickup service call

This year is starting out to be quite busy for the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC), located in Las Vegas. We are now operating the DTCC Pet Desert Tortoise Hotline/Pickup Service that complements Clark County’s Wild Desert Tortoise Pickup Service. Clark County operated both services until December 31, 2009, picking up desert tortoises that people found on development sites, tortoises in harm’s way (such as along a highway), or unwanted or found pet desert tortoises wandering in developed areas. Starting January 1, 2010, Clark County continues to pick up wild tortoises found on development sites, but the DTCC now picks up surrendered pet tortoises and tortoises found in already developed areas.