(Video via National Geographic )

That’s right! Today, April 10th, is Gopher Tortoise Day!

The Florida Gopher Tortoise is an incredible creature whose existence has been seriously impacted by urbanization, disease, poaching, and other human actions. According to national geographic, their numbers have declined by 70 PERCENT in the last century! That’s a frightening loss for the species and for the 360+ other animals whose own existence rely on the burrows Gopher tortoise create!

The video above features one of the most outgoing tortoises Hipps’ observes regularly, Gertrude.  In the article, she describes Gertrude an alpha female and discusses the social behaviors she and her fellow researchers have observed while studying them.

“Most of the tortoises are pretty shy and skittish, but not Gertrude,” says Hipps. If someone approaches Gertrude’s underground home she often begins to head-bob—a telltale sign of tortoise aggression—before charging forward and possibly ramming your shoes, she says.

Read all about the gopher tortoise research project, Amanda Hipps’ work, and the other tortoises her team has worked to learn about and protect in this fantastic article by national geographic.  I guarantee you’ll learn something new!

Oh, and please take a moment and check out this incredible twitter thread by Amanda Hipps, who researches the animals that live in gopher tortoise burrows! It will blow your mind!

An understanding and respect for Gopher Tortoises, the creatures that depend on them is a must for everyone but especially those who live among them. This year, Sanibel island joined the many cities that celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day, by sharing information and advocating for conservation awareness.

Joel Cauette, Part of Sanibel Island’s Natural resources department, shared some basics on how to respect the habitat and activities of the Gopher Tortoise

“The species needs plenty of sandy sunny habitats with an open tree canopy to thrive and survive, according to the FWC. Officials advised that it is best to leave gopher tortoises and their half-moon shaped burrow entrances alone. It is illegal to disturb or harm them, their burrows or their eggs.

To help a gopher tortoise cross a road, pick it up and place it on the roadside in the direction it was heading. Also remember that the tortoise is a land animal – never attempt to put it into water.”

(via Island Reporter)

So take some time to learn about the gopher tortoise today, about their impact on the environment around them, and how you can help ensure the species exists for many more Gopher Tortoise Days to come! 

And if you’re interested in the research mentioned above? Consider Follow Amanda Hipps (@biophiliamanda) and Bethany Augliere (@BethanyAugliere) on twitter! You’ll learn so much! 

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