Four Bolson tortoises, once a hair away from extinction,
are slowly “coming out of their shells” at their new
residence at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, in Carlsbad,
Endangered Bolson tortoises take up residence in Carlsbad
—NEW MEXICO STATE PARKS
Four Bolson tortoises, once a hair away from extinction, are slowly
“coming out of their shells” as they grow accustomed
to their new residence at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park
in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The four tortoises (two males and two females) came to the park
in October 2006 through a cooperative agreement with media mogul
Ted Turner's Turner Endangered Species Fund. The fund aims to conserve
biodiversity by protecting endangered species and their habitat.
“Education and conservation are cornerstones for Living
Desert,” said Ken Britt, park superintendent. “The Bolson-tortoise-conservation
project will be an important addition to the our interpretation
program, which reaches visitors of all ages.”
“Living Desert plays a significant role in ensuring that
the population of the Bolson species is protected through education
and captive breeding; working alongside Living Desert is definitely
an advantage to the species,” said Mike Phillips, executive
director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund. “The road
to recovery will be long and hard, but Living Desert has helped
shore up efforts to ensure that the protection and security of the
species is secure.”
Phillips said that the Turner Fund anticipates future involvement
from other zoological institutions resulting from public awareness
through zoos like Living Desert, which is currently the only zoo
in the country that houses a captive population of pure Bolson tortoises.
The Turner Endangered Species Fund acquired the Bolson tortoises
through heirs of Ariel Appleton, an Arizona rancher who raised and
researched tortoises for over twenty-five years. The two tortoise
pairs at Living Desert were among twenty-eight tortoises that came
from a captive population at the Appleton ranch. Tortoises are also
protected and housed in outdoor enclosures for protection at the
Armendariz Ranch and the Ladder Ranch, both near T or C.
The Bolson tortoise was first placed on the federal endangered-species
list in 1979. David Morafka, a researcher at California State University,
had raised an alarm in the late 1960s after assessing the Bolson
tortoise population and discovering that the tortoises were being
hunted for food in the Mexican area of Bolson de Mapimi. In 1976,
the Mexican government vowed to protect the tortoise habitat and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the tortoise to the endangered-species
list three years later.
“We are proud to play a leading role in saving an endangered
species,” said Dave Simon, director of New Mexico State Parks.
“One of New Mexico's most famous residents, Aldo Leopold,
once said that 'the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save
all of the parts. Extinction is forever, but it doesn't have to
happen if mankind cares enough.”
Protection of the tortoises and subsequent eggs at Living Desert
is expected to boost the overall population.
The Bolson Tortoise is the largest of four North American tortoise
species, growing up to eighteen inches long. Unlike most tortoises,
the Bolson species only lays between twelve and fifteen eggs at
a time, with only an estimated 3 percent survival rate for the eggs.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park will have a contest to
name one of the tortoise pairs. The other pair came to the park
as “Mr. and Mrs. Belaroux.”
Frank Walker, a Living Desert wildlife culturist, worked for the
Turner Fund prior to joining New Mexico State Parks, and he introduced
the park to the Turner Fund. Holly Payne, Living Desert's general
curator, will be in charge of managing a Bolson-tortoise-population
database that includes genetic information and breeding history
on tortoises both at the park and in the Appleton tortoise population.
Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums , Living Desert
Zoo and Gardens State Park actively participates in species conservation
and is dedicated to the plants and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert
ecosystem. The Bolson-tortoise-conservation partnership complements
the zoo's involvement in the Species Survival Plan for the Mexican
Wolf, another federally endangered species.
For more information, contact Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State
Park at (505) 887-5516 or www.nmparks.com. For information on the
Turner Endangered Species Fund, log onto http://tesf.org/turner/tesf/.
Wildlife babies—leave them alone!
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish receives numerous calls
each year from concerned individuals who find what they think are
orphaned or abandoned wildlife young. Some of these people pick
up the animals and take them to local veterinarians, zoos, or their
local Department of Game and Fish offices. While these individuals
have no intention of harming the young animals, people need to realize
that picking up the babies greatly decreases their chances of survival.
Deer, antelope, and elk all leave their young alone while they
move off to forage for food and water. The young are normally left
in areas that provide good cover and relative safety. The fawn or
calf may be left alone for several hours or more, depending on cover,
distance to food and water, and other factors including human presence.
The mothers will return to their young when they feel that it is
safe to do so. It’s not uncommon for people to find fawns
or calves lying hidden in the grass or brush, especially during
the spring and summer months.
If you find a young fawn or calf, leave it alone, don’t touch
it, and by all means don’t pick it up. Leave the general area,
and eventually Mom will return. The only exception to picking up
a fawn or calf is if they happen to be found in the middle of a
road or other areas where they have a higher chance of being injured
or killed. In these instances, carefully move the animal out of
harm’s way and then leave it alone.
Another problem concerns young birds, especially raptors or birds
of prey. Numerous young hawks, kites, and owls are turned in at
department offices throughout the state every year. Most of the
time these young birds have ventured out of the nest or are learning
to fly and often end up on the ground during the learning process.
nce again, the best thing to do is leave them alone. In cases where
the young birds are in immediate danger from cats or dogs, the best
thing to do is place them back into the nest tree. If placing them
back into the tree is not an option, place them in a box with shredded
newspaper and contact your local conservation officer or Department
of Game and Fish office.
Wildlife rehabilitation centers and local zoos can’t handle
many extra animals. Many of these young animals that are picked
up and turned in have to be hand-raised, which usually means that
they can never be returned to the wild.
Another mistake people make when picking up fawns or calves is
feeding them regular cow’s milk, which lacks the necessary
nutrients needed by these young animals. Many of the animals fed
regular milk develop “scours,” which can lead to dehydration
and death, even if the fawn or calf makes it to a wildlife rehab
center or zoo.
The best thing that you can do if you find wildlife that you think
is orphaned or abandoned is to contact your local conservation officer
or Game Department Office. Furthermore, it is unlawful to pick up
game animals or any protected species, of any age, without a proper
permit or documentation from the Department of Game and Fish.