Pleistocene Rewilding: Endangered Tortoises Land In New Mexico

From New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

Thirty-seven endangered bolson tortoises, the largest tortoises found in North America at up to 18 inches long, came to New Mexico this year from a ranch in Arizona.

Most are at Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch near Truth or Consequences.

Turner’s ranches in New Mexico also are home to endangered Mexican gray wolves, black-footed ferrets and aplomado falcons.

The bolson tortoises are believed to have been in the Southwest for thousands of years but were discovered by scientists only in the late 1950s in Mexico.

There are 26 adult tortoises in a pair of 8-acre pens at the Armendaris and four tortoises at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad. Seven additional young tortoises that hatched this summer are at Turner’s Ladder Ranch, also near T or C.
Bolson tortoises once were found in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, as well as in Mexico. The only ones left in the wild now are a small population in the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico.

In the summer, research will focus on nutrition, reproduction and growth of the young, said Joe Truett, senior biologist for the Turner Endangered Species Fund and overseer of the bolson program.

“The first priority next year is to figure out how to capture the eggs— so we can hatch even more young,” Truett said.

The bolson tortoises don’t start breeding until they are 15 or 16 years old. Females lay 12 to 15 eggs at a time, then bury them and leave them to fend for themselves.

Only about 3 percent survive in the wild. This year, seven of 10 eggs placed in an incubator hatched.

The good news is that the captive population is large enough to seed a wild population.

“The long-term plan is to release them into the wild (on the Turner ranches) on an experimental basis,” Truett said, but he added that the effort would be undertaken very cautiously and wouldn’t start for several years.

Like all tortoises, the bolsons don’t do anything quickly. They don’t mature until their teenage years and can live to be more than 100 years old.

6 Responses to “Pleistocene Rewilding: Endangered Tortoises Land In New Mexico”

  1. Rafael Vivas GonzalezJuly 24, 2007 at 9:38 am #

    Hi, well my name is Rafael and I’m studing Biology in the Biological School of the UANL, in Nuevo Leon State, Mexico.
    At first I though that this was a crazy but good Idea. Now, I think that this is completly necesary, this could be a good chance of restoring in a very good way the North America Ecosystems. This Pleistocene Rewilding represents the future of Conservation in a Global Scale. I’m agree with this and honestly I would like to work in a similar proyect.

    The first step was done, now what is the next?……..this is a real and exciting challenge !!

  2. Myles TraphagenAugust 3, 2007 at 6:31 pm #

    Dear Rafael of Nuevo Leon,
    If you are interested in working or assisting with Bolson tortoise conservation, then I would I like to contact you. My email is mbtraphagen@mac.com. We need biologists from Mexico to help with this effort.
    Myles Traphagen
    Turner Endangered Species Fund
    Ladder Ranch, New Mexico

  3. joe and frona filecciaOctober 28, 2007 at 7:56 pm #

    i would be very happy to donate any time i could to help take care of the turtles, my wife and i have raised turtles and lizards, we are retired and spend our winters in elephant butte n,m, so we have a ton of time, we could work five days or more, hope to hear from you, thanks joe fileccia,

  4. joe and frona filecciaOctober 28, 2007 at 7:59 pm #

    this sounds like a great program to help save the endangered tortoises, with a lot of care .it will pay off. thanks joe fileccia

  5. quandraNovember 17, 2008 at 11:33 am #

    wow i love laerning about the bloson tortise

  6. Maureen McGeeOctober 7, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi!
    I found a tortoise in our yard today!
    He (or she) is about three inches wide, five inches long.
    The markings are very interesting.
    Can you tell me anything about this creature?
    How rare is it to find one in the Alamogordo area?
    Thanks!
    M

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