California tortoises died trying to reproduce during drought
Scientists examining the deaths of female desert tortoises in Southern California said it appears the animals died while exhausting their water and energy to lay eggs during California’s historic drought.
Researchers want to know why female tortoises are dying in greater numbers than males in the Joshua Tree National Park.
U.S. Geological Survey biologist Jeffrey Lovich said he believes the tortoises died during a desperate attempt to fight extinction. He called it an “evolutionary gamble” — choosing to try and reproduce despite harsh conditions.
“Females will go out of their way to produce a clutch of four or so eggs,” Lovich told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “They’ll do it during a drought, when they can’t find the water they need, to have a chance to win at the game of life.”
Over the past three decades, Joshua Tree’s tortoise population has plummeted from about 30,000 to an all-time low of roughly 3,000.
Desert tortoises are a threatened species that typically have 50-year lifespans in the wild, with some living 80 years.
Tanzanian experts fear that chimpanzees could join elephants and rhinos as the most threatened wildlife species in the country due to their dwindling populations.
“A hundred years ago, there were probably 2 million, but now only 150,000 to 200,000,” said Anthony Collins, a baboon researcher at Gombe Stream National Park.
He told Tanzania’s The Citizen daily that destruction of habitat, illegal hunting and capture for medical research are the greatest threats to the chimps’ survival.