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It’s a Tortoise Battlefield

Written by PETA | October 3, 2008

The war in Iraq may be thousands of miles away and across one good-sized ocean, but there’s another scuffle going on over desert lands that are closer to home. U.S. soldiers are in a territory dispute with one of the Mohave’s oldest inhabitants: California Tortoises.

LA Weekly reports that after years of coexisting with these slow-moving, gentle animals—listed as threatened under federal and state endangered species acts—the U.S. military at Fort Irwin, California, has taken measures to airlift these native tortoises to another section of the Mojave, more than 20 miles from their home.

tortoise-vs-tank-military-w.jpg
Click the photo to view the slideshow at LAWeekly.com
Credit: C.R. Stecyk III

The tortoises, who in recent decades thrived on the restricted-access lands, are now having to survive on foreign grounds in a much busier, more unstable, and completely unfamiliar environment. Plus, they’re now at a greater risk of danger from vehicles, hikers, campers, and mines.

Way back in 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan, which led to the construction of six critical habitat areas—and guess what? One of those habitats consists of much of the land currently occupied by Fort Irwin—and the land Fort Irwin wants.

The reason for relocating these reptiles? Military folks at the southern California training base need more land space to play their war games. Fort Irwin is a Hollywood-built Iraq—it’s a perfect replica, complete with actors who portray shepherds, prisoners, lawyers, and any other individuals who stroll the Iraqi streets.

With all the strategizing, simulating, role-playing, and lifesaving training going on—not to mention the bottomless pit of cash the military seems to be harboring—the military should at least take a few moments to teach their soldiers compassion for all living creatures and be able to devise a better plan for the safety of these animals.

In an attempt to halt expansion plans, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal lawsuit against the Army and the Bureau of Land Management. This battle is sure to continue, and we’ll be on guard.

Written by Jennifer Cierlitsky

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  • mike v.r. says:

    us borax in boronca.trained all employees involved on a job i was a part of 4″turtle awarness”and i even had ‘s to call when one was encounterd on site.we moved millions of yards of desertwith equipment larger than tanks.turtle fences are the furthest man should go.just narrow existing habbitat and train u.s. intruders to respect them.

  • John says:

    My family worked to establish the Desert Tortoise Natural Area near Edwards AFB. The reality is that every attempt to relocate Desert Tortoises has resulted not only in the slow death of the animals relocated due to inability to find adequate shelter but also the death of the indiginous populations due to the spead of diseases such as mycoplasm spread by the introduced population as the stressed tortoises health fails. In reality it would probably be more humane to leave the tortoises on the battlefield to fend for themselves. No attempt to relocate Desert Tortoises from their range of natural birth has ever been successful. It is illegal to do so in the state of Arizona for this reason. Please reconsider this policy and consult with experts before adopting such extremly damaging policies in the future.

  • Amanda says:

    I’m a member of the military. This situation is a hard one to fix. The bottom line is the troops need to have realistic training and the animals have a right to a stress free healthy life.I hope the leaders come up with a better plan.

  • belen says:

    This is a very fragile tortoise and should not be moved or handled in the wild.

  • SASHA says:

    ISN’T SAD THAT MANKIND CAN’T GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER. OR MAYBE IT’S OUR GOVERNMENTS.ANYWAY…WHY DO OUR WONDERFUL ANIMALS HAVE TO BE STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS.WAR GAMES GOING ON IN THE DESERT AND NOW THE TORTOISES WILL BE HOMELESS OR SMASHED UNDER THE TANKS.HOW SAD. HOPE THEY WILL BE SAVED!

  • Crystal says:

    It is sad how little respect we have for nature the living being who inhabit it. To force them from the only home they know for our own self greed is unforgivable! Thanks for bring this up. It makes me a little less cynical of some other ads. I guess fight fire with fire just like they say! Great work Peta!!

  • Sara says:

    I personaly beleive this is a bunch of BS

  • Sean Sanders says:

    This is a very fragile tortoise and should not be moved or handled in the wild. They get stressed very easily and it is geat to hear that the Center for Biological Diveristy filed a law suit. They need protection not relocation!

  • Carla says:

    I’m torn on this issue! In one hand if we push the military too much on the reloction aspect they may just throw the tortoises in jail I mean a zoo and be done with it!! On the other hand I support your troops but with a war that is costing billions and with a war they can’t seem to get out of why the hell would they want to expand!?? Makes no sence to me. Peace! Live and let live there’s no reason to be selfish.

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