Tortoise rescue in Hi-Desert investigates Nevada kill-off - Hi-Desert Star: News

Tortoise rescue in Hi-Desert investigates Nevada kill-off

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013 12:01 pm

MORONGO BASIN — The headline read, “Hundreds of desert tortoises to be euthanized by 2014 at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center just outside Las Vegas.”

“My heart just sank,” Rae Packard, executive director of the Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue, said after hearing the news. Since then, Packard says her rescue line has been ringing non-stop.

“At first, people thought it was us,” Packard said. She has had to explain that the tortoises marked for death are in Nevada.

Not believing the numbers, Packard called the man who was interviewed for the story, Roy Averill-Murray, head of the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center.

Averill-Murray told her while the situation is dire, the numbers in the article were exaggerated, and only six tortoises are scheduled to die. Averill-Murray said those tortoises have been diagnosed with upper respiratory disease syndrome and are failing to thrive.

When Packard asked if she could pick up those tortoises and rehabilitate them at her facility, Averill-Murray said both Nevada and California state laws absolutely prohibit the interstate transport of desert tortoises.

“The fear is that if they escape from a rescue facility or adoptive home, the sick tortoises may contaminate healthy ones,” Packard explained.

She heard surreptitious talk of an underground movement to take the tortoises, Packard said by phone Wednesday. However, she cautioned no one should get involved in something like that. Transporting desert tortoises across state lines is a federal offense, and the fines reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.

“I know that it’s an important law that went into effect to protect what is remaining of an already declining tortoise population,” Packard said, “But I believe an exception should be made in this case, especially if a cure for URDS is possible. That’s why the tortoise adoption programs were invented.”

Packard encourages those who have been moved by this story to reach out to federal legislative officials to urge them to continue funding the conservation center and to state officials to suspend the interstate transport law to stop this life-or-death crisis.

Packard has also started petitions on and

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  • Helen posted at 8:17 am on Sat, Sep 14, 2013.

    Helen Posts: 1

    I posted this same thing on the Washington Post site. I would think that private and corporate funding could be secured to run this facility. ( No killing off of any tortoises!) My suggestion is that the big casinos, or their owners give direct donations and funding and create special 'tortoise' chips for the betting public to use. Maybe even Southwest Airlines, or any airline that flies to Nevada, could get involved. What a great public relations opportunity for anyone ( especially the casinos) to be associated with.
    I hope ideas flood in and that no tortoises are destroyed.

  • Tom in Joshua Tree posted at 4:13 pm on Mon, Sep 2, 2013.

    Tom in Joshua Tree Posts: 21

    The focus of conservation and intervention is by the very act, acceptance of responsibility. There is no middle ground to be "somewhat committed" Why would such conservation centers be created when there is no foundation to insure the survival of the effort?

    A point was made elsewhere that the tortoises that pose a problem are coming from people who no longer want them as pets? Really? So, what's happening to the masses of tortoises being displaced by the utility scale solar projects that are scarring our desert and displacing these animals and how is it that the responsibility is not sharply put on the energy companies profiting from the exploits of their enterprises?

    When does a tortoise smell like a fish? I'd say when something fishy is going on! What is really up with all of this? Investigation into the issue seems like a great idea and disclosure to the public should be transparent so trust is not doubted.

    Experts like Rae Packard should be trusted to intervene and bring justice to this cause. If there is anything that can be done, it should be done well and done now.

    Comments to the government agencies who are responsible and the legislature must be made loudly and immediately!

  • DebB posted at 9:36 am on Sun, Sep 1, 2013.

    DebB Posts: 3

    Why the widely varying numbers of animals to be euthanized? Press Enterprise blogger Janet Zimmerman cited the same Roy Averill-Murray estimating that 50% to 60% of the 1400 tortoises living at the center were sick. Is it 6, or 700 doomed animals?

    And why is it that the 4 partner agencies involved in the DTCC are unable to keep it going and protect this endangered species? An excerpt from the San Diego Zoo website: In March 2009, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as a member of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2), began a partnership to operate the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC) along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW).

  • Branson Hunter posted at 8:32 pm on Fri, Aug 30, 2013.

    Branson Hunter Posts: 1078

    This defies logic. It's insane. Congress need to quickly step up and do something good for a change . Animals continue to suffer at dirty hands of humans. This killing must not happen.

    The savagery of mankind continues . . ..


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