#40 - Biologists fear desert tortoise is headed for extinction
While not a common sight at the ISDRA, one of the more emblematic symbols of the desert southwest is the lone tortoise shuffling amongst the desert scrub. In fact, it is the California state reptile. Unfortunately, it appears unlikely that the species will recover and is instead likely to become extinct. This has led for efforts to elevate its status from Threatened to Endangered under California law.
Many factors have been sighted for the decline in tortoise population, with two of the biggest contributors being the lack of reproduction and predation. As tortoise populations began to decline, it became more difficult for the animals to find each other, further lowering the birth rate. And with the increased use of desert areas by humans, ravens followed, with the highly social and intelligent birds preying upon baby tortoises.
While changes to the protection status of tortoises is unlikely to have much impact on the ISDRA, there are still efforts we can make there that can have an impact, namely packing and packing out our trash. Ravens on average fly 30-40 miles per day from where they roost looking for food. As they are indiscriminate eaters, reducing and eliminating food sources should help reduce the population in the desert, and remove ravens as a primary predator of the tortoise.
For more information, please see the LA Times article: https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-11-17/biologists-fear-desert-tortoise-is-headed-for-extinction