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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Tortoise Tracking

Tortoise Tracking

Desert tortoise, Joshua Tree NP (credit: NPS)


The Desert Tortoise inhabits portions of the deserts inn California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah and it is in trouble. In 1920, 1000 tortoises/square mile were estimated to exist in the Mojave desert alone. Seventy years later the slow-moving reptiles were listed as threatened on the endangered species list. The creatures had suffered from a series of environmental threats including harvesting for the pet trade, habitat destruction, and getting killed on roadways. Several active efforts are now underway to reverse their decline.

Joshua Tree National Park has established a program to better understand the status of the tortoise, its ecology, and how populations can be rebuilt in the hyper-arid environment of that California park. Working with volunteers from non-profit organizations as 'citizen scientists', park managers began an initiative to monitor tortoise behavior using radio-tagged turtles with tracking transmitters. The batteries last three years and provide valuable data that couldn't be acquired otherwise on the lumbering reptiles. There is even a cell phone app you can use to help the field workers identify tortoises you might encounter on a desert hike. Efforts by other parks even allow an individual to adopt a tortoise by making a donation to sponsor a tortoise. The donations go directly to acquiring additional tracking devises for increacing the monitoring of more turtles.


Desert Tortoise radio tracking and health measurements (credit: National Park Service & Institute for Wildlife Studies)

A park service video shows what dedicated volunteers and park managers can accomplish for conservation of this iconic animal by collaborating together. WHB

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