Saving the gopher tortoises - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Saving the gopher tortoises

August 22, 2005

Cook County - Hundreds of baby gopher tortoises got their first glimpse of the world Monday. "They hatched a little earlier this year than we thought they would," said Jennifer Glover.

These are the lucky ones. Their eggs were collected back in the spring to protect them from predators, but others were lost. "There were days when we'd check one nest one day, they laid eggs that night and they were dug up and eaten by the next morning," said Glover.

Eaten by predators who are moving this species closer and closer to extinction. But thanks to a program at Reed Bingham State Park, their chances of survival are growing every day. The eggs are retrieved, incubated and hatched, then released back into their habitat. "They stand a much better chance after they hatch to surviving adulthood," said Powell.

Without the volunteers here at Reed Bingham, less than half of these little guys would survive. "Usually if a gopher tortoise lays eggs, 80 percent of the time before the next day, they will be dug up and eaten," said Powell.

Their survival is crucial, because as they grow older, they'll help provide a safe haven for hundreds of other animals. "They dig borrows and the borrows will be a temporary or sometimes a permanent shelter for more than 300 animals from fire and predators," said Powell.

"Without us or someone helping these tortoises, they're going to go extinct," said Glover.

And with each egg that hatches, the species has a greater chance of thriving again.

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