Archive for the 'Desert Tortoise Conservation' Category

Family Dog Loves Pet Tortoise Too Much?

Posted at 3:44 pm January 26, 2010 by Rachel Foster

An adult tortoise with its right forelimb chewed off by a dog.

An adult tortoise with its right forelimb chewed off by a dog.

Greetings to my fellow tortoise lovers!

As I go about my daily duties caring for the tortoises in the medical pavilion at the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC), I am constantly reminded about how fragile these seemingly tough little critters can be. Thousands of years of evolution have made these guys the highly adapted desert burrowers that they are today, but there are just some things that their strong shells and tough skin cannot protect them from.

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A Desert Tortoise Isn’t Just Any Old Tortoise

Posted at 1:57 pm January 15, 2010 by Daniel Essary

Desert tortoise

Desert tortoise

The southwestern United States is lucky to have a wide variety of animals throughout its desert region. One special and ecologically important animal that is found here is the desert tortoise. This land-loving prehistoric critter has worked its way into the hearts of the public and has gained a lot of attention due to its declining populations resulting from encroachment on its habitat, droughts, and exposure to bacteria that cause upper respiratory tract disease.

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Winter at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center

Posted at 3:51 pm January 5, 2010 by Kirsten Dutcher

Snow dusts the Spring Mountains.

Spring Mountains, to the west of the DTCC, dusted in a layer of light winter snow in December 2009.

In the winter, the Mojave Desert can feel pretty deserted—the plants die back significantly, there are no insects buzzing in the sky, very few birds can be seen, the mammals and reptiles seem to disappear, and the air is quiet.

At the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) it is hard to imagine we have so many tortoises on site because all of them are underground sleeping in burrows.

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More Tortoise Hatchlings

Posted at 10:35 am December 15, 2009 by Rachel Foster

dtcc_4hatchlingsGreetings to my fellow tortoise lovers!

We’ve finally finished up with our busy season here at the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) in Las Vegas, and the tortoises have gone into hibernation for the winter. Now that we have time to reflect on everything we did last season, I want to share with you one of our success stories.

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We Love Volunteers

Posted at 3:52 pm December 1, 2009 by Angie Sawyer

Volunteer Andrea Ortiz washes one of many tortoise totes.

Volunteer Andrea Ortiz washes one of many tortoise totes.

As soon as San Diego Zoo staff arrived at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) in Las Vegas back in March 2009, we started receiving e-mails from people interested in volunteering their time to help the tortoises. We knew that starting a volunteer program would not only benefit us here at the DTCC, but it would also help us spread our conservation message throughout the Las Vegas area.

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Reptile Diversity at Desert Tortoise Conservation Center

Posted at 12:12 pm November 23, 2009 by Kirsten Dutcher

Long-nosed leopard lizard

Long-nosed leopard lizard

The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) is located in southwest Las Vegas on a lovely patch of bajada (a broad sloping area of the desert surrounded by mountains). Here in the heart of the Mojave Desert, we are home to many desert tortoises, which are considered a flagship species in this ecosystem. That means the tortoise is an important representative of the Mojave Desert, and conservation and education efforts that relate to this species will benefit the entire ecosystem. The desert tortoise is the only chelonian (turtle/tortoise) in our area of the Southwest, but the Mojave is also home to a great many plant and animal species, including approximately 40 lizard and snake species, many of which use desert tortoise burrows as protection from predators and harsh environmental conditions. As a result of this relationship, many of these animals are found naturally right here at the DTCC.

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Desert Tortoise: Hatchling Surprise

Posted at 4:20 pm November 2, 2009 by Paula Kahn

The surprise hatchling desert tortoise

The surprise hatchling desert tortoise

We got a very special surprise today at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC). One of our hard-working volunteers, Jim Brinson, was digging up an empty tortoise burrow to sterilize it and get it ready for a newly arriving tortoise when he came across a nest of eggs. Seeing the darkened color of the eggs and knowing that it is too late in the season for the eggs to hatch, he knew that the eggs were not viable (no tortoise babies in the eggs). This happens in nature from time to time. He put the eggs to the side and continued his task of digging in the dirt and sterilizing the burrow. But suddenly, as he was moving the dirt from the location of the burrow to the area beside it, he saw a small object covered in dirt fall from the shovel. He reached down to pick it up and saw that it was a fully formed hatchling!

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Tortoises on TV

Posted at 1:43 pm October 28, 2009 by Paula Kahn

Collette Wieland from KVBC with Mojave Max

Collette Wieland from KVBC with Mojave Max

KVBC Channel 3 shot their morning show “Waking Up with the Wagners” live from the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) today! Mojave Max and Ethel (see post Desert Tortoises: Lucy and Ethel) made their final appearances of the season. It’s cold here in the Las Vegas Valley, so they will soon be settling in for their winter brumation.

We also introduced a family of 18 tortoises, ranging from hatchlings to adults, that all came to us through our Desert Tortoise Hotline from the same home and were not in very good health; it gave us the perfect opportunity to encourage people to surrender their pet desert tortoises to the Clark County Desert Tortoise Hotline here in southern Nevada so we can rehabilitate the tortoises and eventually release the healthy ones into the desert to help recover the species. We are confident that all 18 tortoises will be successfully rehabilitated by this time next year, and maybe even sooner.

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Desert Tortoises: Unexpected Nests!

Posted at 9:00 am August 18, 2009 by Daniel Essary

desert_tortoise_nestOne very important part of my job is to maintain the outdoor tortoise enclosures here at the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC), and in particular to ensure that the burrows in which tortoises live are well insulated from the harsh desert sun and heat. Tortoises spend over 90 percent of their lives in their burrows, so it is incredibly important that they are comfortable in them. While taking care of the burrows last week, I unexpectedly located several tortoise nests! You may be wondering how it is that I didn’t know there would be nests in the enclosures, but here’s what happens…

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Desert Tortoises: Male or Female?

Posted at 3:29 pm July 29, 2009 by Daniel Essary

During the years I have spent working with desert tortoises, the one thing that I am continuously asked is “How do you know if it is a female or a male?” Well, it’s not an easy answer because there’s more than one way to determine the sex of a desert tortoise, and it can take some practice to get it right.

Plastrons of female, left, and male desert tortoises

Plastrons of female, left, and male desert tortoises

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