Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Desert-turtle conservation center threatened by reduction of funding for U.S. Fish and Wldlife Service

Rescued Desert Tortoises to Be Euthanized for Lack of Funding

By Associated Press
28 August 13
or decades, the vulnerable desert tortoise has led a sheltered existence.
Developers have taken pains to keep the animal safe. It's been protected from meddlesome hikers by the threat of prison time. And wildlife officials have set the species up on a sprawling conservation reserve outside Las Vegas.
But the pampered desert dweller now faces a threat from the very people who have nurtured it.
Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they've been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990.
"It's the lesser of two evils, but it's still evil," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service desert tortoise recovery coordinator Roy Averill-Murray during a visit to the soon-to-be-shuttered reserve at the southern edge of the Las Vegas Valley last week.
Biologists went about their work examining tortoises for signs of disease as Averill-Murray walked among the reptile pens. But the scrubby 220-acre refuge area will stop taking new animals in the coming months. Most that arrive in the fall will simply be put down, late-emerging victims of budget problems that came from the same housing bubble that put a neighborhood of McMansions at the edge of the once-remote site.
The Bureau of Land Management has paid for the holding and research facility with fees imposed on developers who disturb tortoise habitat on public land. As the housing boom swept through southern Nevada in the 2000s, the tortoise budget swelled. But when the recession hit, the housing market contracted, and the bureau and its local government partners began struggling to meet the center's $1 million annual budget.
Housing never fully recovered, and the federal mitigation fee that developers pay has brought in just $290,000 during the past 11 months. Local partners, which collect their own tortoise fees, have pulled out of the project.
"With the money going down and more and more tortoises coming in, it never would have added up," said BLM spokeswoman Hillerie Patton.
Back at the conservation center, a large refrigerator labeled "carcass freezer" hummed in the desert sun as scientists examined the facility's 1,400 inhabitants to find those hearty enough to release into the wild. Officials expect to euthanize more than half the animals in the coming months in preparation for closure at the end of 2014.
The desert tortoise is a survivor that has toddled around the Southwest for 200 million years. But ecologists say the loss of the conservation center represents a harmful blow in southern Nevada for an animal that has held onto some unfortunate evolutionary quirks that impede its coexistence with strip malls, new homes and solar plants.
Laws to protect the panicky plodders ban hikers from picking them up, since the animals are likely dehydrate themselves by voiding a year's worth of stored water when handled. When they're moved, they nearly always attempt to trudge back to their burrows, foiling attempts to keep them out of harm's way. They're also beset by respiratory infections and other illnesses.
No more than 100,000 tortoises are thought to survive in the habitat where millions once burrowed across parts of Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada.
The animals were once so abundant that tourists would scoop them up as souvenirs. Many quickly realized the shy grass-eaters don't make ideal pets. (For one thing, they can live for 100 years.) And once the species was classified as threatened on the endangered species list, people rushed to give them back.
Former pets make up the majority of the tortoises at the conservation center, where they spend their days staring down jackrabbits and ducking out of the sun into protective PVC piping tucked into the rocky desert floor. Most of these animals are not suitable for release, either infected with disease or otherwise too feeble to survive.
Averill-Murray looks as world-weary as the animals he studies. He wants to save at least the research function of the center and is looking for alternative funding sources.
"It's not the most desirable model to fund recovery - on the back of tortoise habitat," he said.


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+8# sapereaudeprime 2013-08-28 06:39
Anyone who kills just one of these tortoises should immediately lose his job. These tortoises can fend for themselves in the desert. Just take them to a decent environment for them and let them go! This has got to be more bureaucratic reaction to Republican hijacking of our national budget. What's next? Euthanizing orphans because there's no more government money for the orphanage? I'd rather see the entire Republican congressional contingent euthanized. Preferably by tossing them into a cement mixer with a few hundred bricks and churning the GOP into GLOP.
+14# DaveM 2013-08-28 07:29
How much can it cost to care for TORTOISES, of all things? How about seeking volunteers or benefactors to step up to the plate?

The first shot fired at Syria will cost more than the expense required to maintain this facility--and the tortoises--inde finitely, if properly managed.
0# Harold R. Mencher 2013-08-28 11:01
I'm sorry, DaveM, but the United States is more interested in destructive matters such as making war for world empire and supporting the weapons manufacturers in this country than constructive matters such as saving human lives and our iconic wildlife in this country.

You have to know that Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans fully know what they're doing and it has absolutely nothing to do with preserving life. You have to know that our leaders are acting as if they have their blinders on and their ears stuffed with wax so they don't have to see or hear from their constituents that we want no more war, no more killing, that we know the real reasons why our govt is doing what it's doing, and it has nothing to do with improving the human condition.

Our govt is not just threatening the desert tortoise, but they are also threatening to decimate the wild mustang population in this country as well as the wolf population and the bison population, primarily because of ranchers and hunters who have more influence with Congress and Obama than the American people.

There are private sanctuaries for wild life in this country who would gladly take care of these tortoises. I personally live in the Tucson, Arizona, area where these tortoises live and I am aware of several wildlife sanctuaries.
+9# TCinLA 2013-08-28 08:12
Once again, humans demonstrate that the top intelligent species on the planet is not Homo Sap. We've been busy destroying everything around us since we wiped out the mammoths 50,000 years ago, and now that our numbers have increased to that of a cancer on the planet, we're busy taking the whole thing down with us. The conceit that humans are something positive on the planet is not borne out by any study of the actual facts.
+7# mikeandnettie 2013-08-28 08:49
The Empire can't even afford a lousy million bucks a year. How pathetic. It's a matter of profit-driven priorities, of course. One Cruise cost that much twenty years ago.
+9# Kootenay Coyote 2013-08-28 08:55
Desert Tortoises are endangered, so kill them. US logic at its finest.
0# RMDC 2013-08-28 13:01
You said it all. That's how the US regime treats every living this. It regards everything as under its control. When it no longer care, it exterminates its things.
+1# Kootenay Coyote 2013-08-28 08:55
Desert Tortoises are endangered, so kill them. US logic at its finest.
0# krallison 2013-08-28 09:16
From this morning's Las Vegas Review Journal:
0# born1929 2013-08-28 09:30
Desert tortoises do in my opinion and in my experience make good pets and they are not difficult to care for by a caring responsible "owner" ... Granted that if kept in good health they are very likely to out-live their owners ... but life can go on for these gentle creatures ... New caring qualified owners can be located with the assistance of any number of turtle / tortoise organizations ....just one example ... you can google for others ... ... we have no right to condemn any species to extinction for our convenience ...
stan levin
0# Harold R. Mencher 2013-08-28 11:05
Let me try to understand this. The title of the article is "Rescued Desert Tortoises to Be Euthanized for Lack of Funding."

What exactly doesn't our government understand about the words "Rescued Tortoises" and its opposite meaning "Euthanized Tortoises?"

When you rescue anything and then euthanize that anything, then you're not really rescuing them, are you? It's an oxymoron.
0# RMDC 2013-08-28 13:04
These tortoises have lived in the desert for millions of years without a dime of US regime spending or "protection." They can do just fine if the US regime will just go away. There may be some few people who will harm the tortoises, just as other predators such as eagles do. But they will survive and flourish on their own.

Yankee go home. Leave the desert alone.

I grew up in California and when I was a kid one of these tortoises wandered into our yard. We played with it for a while and fed it. We loved it. Then one day, it wandered on. I'm sure they will do that until all humans have exterminated themselves.

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