Baby gopher tortoises see new world - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Baby gopher tortoises see new world

September 2, 2003

Cook County - It's something special and unique. Even experts in the field haven't laid eyes on this amazing site. On Tuesday, six gopher tortoise eggs hatched at Reed Bingham State Park.

New life, hatched right before park rangers eyes. The baby tortoise breaks the egg shell and pokes his head out to smell and see the new world.

It's a special occasion for Reed Bingham State Park. Park Ranger, Chet Powell, says, "It's amazing to actually hold it or be there when it hatches and see the head poke out at the first time."

The tortoises normally hatch underground. Powell says, "In Georgia they're on the threatened list. This is the payoff. We get to put them back to be part of our ecosystem and they probably would not have been here if we didn't do this."

The hatchling aren't strong enough to return to the wild, but another set of eggs we watched dug up in May hatched a week ago. It's time for them to go back to their parents. As Powell puts the little tortoises back inside their hole he says, "We're trying to keep it as close to its natural habitat as possible. The only thing we've done is assure that they hatched and nothing ate the eggs."

If they avoid predators and diseases this new generation of baby gopher tortoises will grow up to be a big as their mother.

Reed Bingham State Park officials noticed they had too many male tortoises last year. They were able to keep the new eggs at a certain temperature to make sure they produced females. Gopher tortoises do not reproduce until they reach 15 to 20 years old.

posted at 5:50PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com

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