Jillian Estrada, the Preserve Manager and Conservation Coordinator for the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee (DTPC) explains why we should all care about the desert tortoise and her love for nature and Africa adventures in our upcoming podcast on Tuesday, December 26th. You can find out more about the DTPC’s work, events and how you can help at www.tortoise-tracks.org. If you are in the area in the springtime or summertime, plan a visit to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area (DTRNA) and take advantage of the interpretive center and self-guided trails. More events are also regularly updated on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DTPC.Inc/
What is a desert tortoise you ask? A desert tortoise is a land dwelling turtle that weighs 10-17 pounds on average as an adult with a domed shell size of 20-36 centimeters wide. Their hind legs look like little elephant legs and their front legs are shovel-like and are used for digging. They can live up to 50-80 years in the wild and some in captivity have lived to as long as 100 years. Desert tortoises don’t reach sexual maturity until around 14 years old. Females deposit anywhere from 4-12 eggs in spring to Early Summer. Unfortunately, approximately 2% of eggs hatched will turn into adult turtles. They provide food for many predators such as ravens, coyotes, hawks, eagle, fox, mountain lions, ground squirrels and even fire ants.
One of the many reasons that make a desert tortoise worth saving is that it is a bellwether species; it provides early warning signs of environmental danger or distress. When there are low numbers of desert tortoises in an area where there once were many, you can expect to see a decline in the number of burrowing owls and other predator species. This will all change the biodiversity of an area.
Burrowing owls and other animals rely on the burrows dug out from desert tortoises for protecting and nesting. Other predator species rely on the desert tortoise for food. Also, the desert tortoise diet relies a lot on native grasses, succulents and flowers. If these plants are not present due to drought conditions or some other environmental effect (or from vehicles and too much foot traffic causing erosion), the desert tortoise cannot sustain itself.
Please share the word and help us protect the Desert Tortoise, it is currently listed as threatened.