The Plight Of Nevada’s Tortoise Conservation
September 5, 2013

The Plight Of Nevada’s Tortoise Conservation

Recently, as I was reading articles on redOrbit, I came across one that particularly plucked at my heart. Lee Rannals wrote about a sad outcome for one tortoise refuge in Nevada, US. The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, which currently lives just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, will have to shut its doors by the end of 2014. This is terrible enough for tortoises around the country, but those who live there right now face something even worse. The majority of the center’s current tortoise population will have to be euthanized.

What is the cause of this? Well, money of course. It is always money. As the redOrbit article explains, “The AP said the Bureau of Land Management paid for the facility using fees imposed on developers who disturb tortoise habitat on public land. When the housing market in the area began to swell up, so did the budget for the wildlife refuge. However, as the recession hit in 2008, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center was unable to reach its $1 million annual budget. So far, the center has only been able to bring in about $290,000 in the past 11 months…Officials said they expect to put down more than half the facility’s 1,400 inhabitants in the coming months in preparation for the closure at the end of 2014.”

What a sad end for these tortoises that were sent to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center to be protected and cared for. Many sent the tortoises over the years for conservation, but now they will be euthanized because of money. redOrbit says that some of the tortoises have lived at the center since the 1990s.

What is worse is that soon there will be one less place to send tortoises that need protection or rehabilitation, and it is all because of the housing bubble and a lack of funding. Really, this is so sad.

Some good news does come from this, albeit a small concession to something so sad. A few of the tortoises are healthy enough to be reintroduced into the wild, so they will escape euthanizing…at least for now. It is hard to take consolation that only a select few of these reptiles will live, or at least have the opportunity to live. They may get back into the wild and not be able to function. This could be just a different type of death sentence. Then again, they may just be the link to their genetic continuation in that region, which millions of the tortoises once called home. Now, only a little more than 100,000 do so. Here is hoping that those released breed, and breed a lot.

Another turtle positive reported by Rannals is that some “offspring of a giant Galapagos species that had been believed to be extinct for 150 years. Researchers said they discovered a hybrid tortoise species on the island of Isabela that appears to have the Galapagos species flowing through its veins.” This proves that turtles and tortoises can persevere. Let’s hope that the tortoises released from Desert Tortoise Conservation Center will show the same perseverance.

It is a sad day when the turtle suffers.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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