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El Paso Zoo Keeper Returns from Local Tortoise Field Conservation Trip

El Paso Zoo keeper Tracy Sipes returned from Armendaris Ranch near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico where she contributed to field conservation efforts saving bolson tortoises.

Since it is bolson tortoise breeding season, Sipes was able to help the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) with ongoing research aimed at establishing a free living, minimally-managed Bolson tortoise population in the northern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The Zoo has partnered with TESF to help save this desert tortoises for six years.

“My hope is that we can share knowledge and keep learning more together,” said El Paso Zoo Keeper Tracy Sipes. “I’m excited to be acolor-coded dye packages help identify mommas with their burrows conservation field work volunteer and learn, so I can go back out and help with species survival and tortoise research.”

a clutch of bolson tortoise eggs in an incubator, incubation temperatures effect the sex of the babiesThe bolson tortoise, commonly known as the Mexican giant tortoise, is the largest of four
North American tortoise species.

With their powerful front legs, tortoises dig burrows in which they spend over 85 percent of their time hiding to avoid the hot Chihuahuan Desert heat.

However, the burrows are an important part of a healthy desert ecosystem, as they provide shelter for a myriad other species, including mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.

The tortoise is categorized as “vulnerable,” one category before endangered.

The last population survey estimated fewer than 10,000 animals alive in the early 1980’s.

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