Army Seeks New Home for Desert Tortoises

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2009 3:00 AM CDT
An endangered desert tortoise sits in the middle of a road in the proposed location of three solar-energy generation complexes in the eastern Mojave Desert.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, FILE)
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(Newser) – The Army plans to evict more than 1,000 endangered desert tortoises to expand a tank training ground in the Mojave Desert, the Los Angeles Times reports. Conservationists warn that the last effort to shift the tortoises proved disastrous: Many were wiped out by predators, and others traveled up to 8 miles to return to their old territory.

"Nothing's ever been done on this scale before," one biologist says."Every time the animals recognize that they don’t know where they are, they have some built-in mechanism that tells them to head for home and they make a break for home." The military, which argues that the high death rate in the earlier effort was due to drought rather than relocation, will start moving the tortoises next month if it wins Bureau of Land Management approval.