Reed Bingham starts turtle tracking program -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Reed Bingham starts turtle tracking program

By Alicia Eakin - bio | email

September 29, 2008

Adel, GA (WALB) - The gopher tortoise is Georgia's state reptile, but the species population is dwindling.

Rangers at Reed Bingham state park are now using the newest technologies to try and save the population.

They are implanting trackers in baby turtles. It's a process that's never been done to gopher tortoises and will provide information that will help save them from extinction.

For years, rangers and volunteers at reed Bingham state park have collected and hatched gopher tortoise eggs.   The program has increased the tortoise population at the park.

Now, park manager Chet Powell is taking that research to another level.   "Since we were already doing that to protect them from predators, why not take advantage of this new technology and to be able to track them."

With the help of biology professor Mitch lock hart and graduate students at VSU, they are implanting baby gopher tortoises with these trackers.

"Its a little micro-chip implant that uniquely marks this animal permanently," Lockhart says.

The process sounds painful but is only as invasive as a shot.

"We are making a small incision, placing the pit tag under the skin then closing the wound and monitoring them before they're released," Lockhart adds.

Then using scanners, the rangers will be able to track these little guys as they grow up.

"Hopefully in the future when one of these animals is caught in the park we can take our scanners and scan it and get some information," says Lockhart.

"We'll know exactly when they hatched, how far they moved, how much they've grown," Powell adds.

They hope the information collected from these implants over the next couple of years will help the gopher tortoise climb off the endangered species list.

And provide invaluable information to research organizations to protect gopher tortoise habitats throughout the country.

In all, more than 100 tiny gopher tortoises will be micro-chipped and released in the park next month.



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