|
|
|
Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Delia Lister has taken in a desert tortoise

  • Delia Lister, coordinator of the Nature Reach program at Pittsburg State University, recently learned something new.



    “I didn’t know that you can call in a prescription for a tortoise to the pharmacy,” she said. “You can, but it has to be a veterinarian calling.”

    • email print
  • Delia Lister, coordinator of the Nature Reach program at Pittsburg State University, recently learned something new.
    “I didn’t know that you can call in a prescription for a tortoise to the pharmacy,” she said. “You can, but it has to be a veterinarian calling.”
    The patient was a desert tortoise with a respiratory infection, but that wasn’t its only problem. The creature, native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, is hundreds of miles away from home.
    “It was found wandering around Joplin, probably sometime around October,” Lister said.  “The person who found it took to the Bobcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center in Joplin, and I found out about it.”
    What she didn’t find out, and what nobody seems to know, is how the tortoise got to Joplin.
    “People sometimes pick them up for pets, and that’s probably what happened with this guy,” Lister said.
    She added that this is not a good thing to do, for the tortoise or the human. While it is possible to legally purchase captive tortoises under some circumstances, there are laws against taking or harming wild desert tortoises.
    Lister suggested that whoever had the tortoise might have released it, or  it might even be one more refugee from the May 2011 tornado. With all the rescue efforts for the human victims, as well as dogs and cats, a tortoise might easily have escaped notice.
    Luckily, the reptile responded well to its medication.
    “We treated it and it was in quarantine, but it’s fine now and been in with the other tortoises for a few weeks,” Lister said.
    She said that, at home, the tortoise probably enjoyed eating cactus pads and cactus fruit.
    “We don’t have a ready supply of those, but it can also eat collard greens, sweet potatoes, and so on,” Lister said. “It is a herbivore.”
    She refers to the tortoise as “it” because she’s not sure whether it’s a male or female.
    “There were some who kind of thought it was female, but it’s really difficult to tell,” Lister said.
    She estimates its age at around 15 to 20, but again, that’s not certain.
    “They can live 50 years,” Lister said.
    Actually, the ones who make it to 50 are lucky, because these are not good times for desert tortoises. It’s not because they aren’t well adapted to their home surroundings. Excellent diggers, the tortoises take refuge against the desert’s scalding heat and bitter cold in burrows, and they are masters at water conservation.
    “Their population numbers are down 90 percent in some areas,” Lister said. “The main cause is habitat loss.”
    Also contributing to their decline are people who steal them from the wild, natural predators who particularly snack on tortoise eggs and hatchlings, and disease, with respiratory infections being particularly common among the tortoises.
      • calendar