4 min read

How These Little Tortoises Were Saved From Being Buried Alive

A group of tortoises native to Florida have found themselves being unceremoniously dumped on - by new construction.

The little gopher tortoises are very skilled diggers, making burrows that are roughly seven feet deep and 15 feet long. But while their underground homes may protect the gopher tortoises from predators, the burrows can't protect against the tortoises' greatest threat: loss of habitat.

Over 100,000 gopher tortoises have been killed in the past 20 years due to development on top of their homes, even though they are considered to be a threatened species protected by the state of Florida.

Luckily, conservation program "Saving Florida's Gopher Tortoises" (SFGT) has teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to relocate gopher tortoises whose habitats are threatened by imminent construction or development.

Some of the tortoises, are a little bit camera shy, understandably.

(YouTube: hsus)

During one particular rescue in Apopka, Florida, the team rescued and relocated 18 tortoises who would have otherwise been "buried alive" in their burrows, according to SFGT worker Carissa Kent.

(YouTube: hsus)

Once they are removed from their burrows, the tortoises are transported to the serene and spacious Nokuse Plantation, where they can live peacefully without worry of habitat destruction. Kent says that the goal of this relocation is to "create sustainable populations of tortoises throughout Florida again."

(YouTube: hsus)

The tortoises seem pretty content with their new digs (no pun intended). One of them even takes a graceful sand-slide into an interesting hole - which will hopefully become his new home.

(YouTube: hsus)

Though it was a happy ending for the 18 tortoises in Apopka, this is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managing the effects of development on local wildlife. Says HSUS Director of Urban Wildlife Solutions John Griffin to The Dodo in an email, the conservation group hopes to continue to help developers and builders "lessen the impact to wildlife in the development and land clearing period" and "build their communities, buildings, and other features so that they themselves do not become the source of wildlife conflicts."

The Humane Society lists multiple ways that you can become active in making sure local development in your area is ecologically-conscious.

You can watch one of the tortoise rescues below:

(YouTube: hsus)

To donate to this rescue cause, you can visit the HSUS donation page.