Living Desert Zoo and Gardens Work To Protect The Endangered Desert Tortoise

Tiani Jadulang

The Desert Tortoise is California’s state reptile, and biologists fear it’s headed for extinction.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is doing their part, they’ve added another group of infant tortoises into their Head Start program.

The program involves hand-rearing wild-baby tortoises until they can safely survive on their own.

“The main ways that we care for and protect desert tortoises in the wild is by addressing the challenges that we as humans pose to those wildlife.” Dr. James Danoff-Burg, the Vice President of Conservation for the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens says.

As native reptiles to the Coachella Valley, many desert tortoises call this region their home, but as we’ve progressed through the years, the desert tortoise has become an endangered reptile.

In turn, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens started their Desert Tortoise Head Start Project, bringing baby tortoises from the Edwards Airforce Base, and assisting them until they’re large enough to live independently.

“So we artificially increase the raven populations, we try to reduce the ravens, they go out and eat the tortoises… so we try to get the tortoises to the point where they can’t be eaten by the ravens. We restore habitats, replant with native plants so that the tortoises have food.” Dr. Danoff-Burg says.

To continue this effort, the conservation team consistently works with restaurants to cover their dumpsters, and the public to not take desert tortoises from the wild.

“Love them from afar. If you see a desert tortoise in the wild, leave it there. Don’t pick it up. If it’s crossing a road, stop traffic. Let’s let the tortoise get across, because if you pick up a tortoise and move it to the other side, they’ll void their bladder and lose all their water.” Dr. Danoff-Burg adds.

They’re  also assisting pet desert tortoises as well, who cannot be out in the wild, but are safe as pets.

“We also talk to people about living sustainably and safely with desert tortoises, which are our California State reptiles, also threatened, and one of those ways we do that is through taking care of pet tortoises that people don’t want anymore.”

Now, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is inviting the public to learn more about the conservation of the Desert Tortoise for the 4th Annual Desert Tortoise Celebration Day, this Sunday, October 8th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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