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Reptile News & Stories | PetsWeekly

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While desert tortoise numbers appear to be declining in the wild, the number of tortoises being held in captivity is increasing at an alarming rate. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, through its Tortoise Adoption Program, has been working for 30 years to educate the public about desert tortoises. Two of the elements of the program that are considered essential to avoiding overpopulation of captive desert tortoises are:

~Never remove a tortoise from the wild – it’s illegal

~Never allow captive tortoises to breed

Just like cats and dogs, there are currently more desert tortoises available for adoption in Arizona than there are homes willing to have one as a pet. Once captive, desert tortoises cannot be released back into the wild as captive animals can pass on upper respiratory tract disease or pathogens to wild tortoise populations. “Without the public’s help in keeping wild tortoises wild and preventing backyard breeding of captive tortoises, Arizona has the potential to end up with a conservation challenge similar to the one being faced by the closure of the tortoise conservation center in Nevada,” said Cristina Jones, Arizona Game and Fish’s turtle program coordinator. “The public must do their part to help this iconic desert species.”

Desert tortoises are native to the southwestern desert and can live up to 100 years. They grow to be about 15 pounds and hibernate in the winter months. A desert tortoise can produce up to 12 hatchlings per year, which then must remain in captivity to protect wild tortoise populations.

For anyone interested in adopting a tortoise, there are plenty of opportunities through the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Visit this page for more information on feeding, caring for, and creating a habitat for a tortoise. A desert tortoise adoption packet, which includes the adoption application, can also be downloaded at this site. There is a limit of one tortoise per household to prevent breeding.

Arizona State-sanctioned Adoption Facilities

Phoenix:          Phoenix Herpetological Society    (602) 550-7029; (480) 513-4377
Bullhead City:    AGFD Region III Office               (928) 692-7700
Lake Havasu:    AGFD Region III Office                (928) 692-7700
Kingman:         AGFD Region III Office                (928) 692-7700
Yuma:             AGFD Region IV Office                (928) 342-0091
Tucson:          Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum     (520) 883-3062

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Author: stacymantle
About the Author

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a few dogs, several cats, and a very understanding husband. She is a regular contributor to Pet Age Magazine, Catster, Animal Behavior College, and of course, PetsWeekly. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. She is also the author of a bestselling urban fantasy/thriller, Shepherd's Moon; a humor book entitled, Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One), and a line of Educational Activity Books for children.

Reptile Quotes

  • "Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head."
    William Shakespeare
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Reptile Facts

  • Depending upon the size of the meal, anacondas can go several months between meals.
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