Words of wisdom from the experts pt 2
Check out this INCREDIBLE photo by Amanda Hipps, @biophilamanda, one of the experts who responded to our #worldturtleday question. Amanda studies the animals that live in gopher tortoise burrows. In case you didn’t know, gopher tortoise burrows are home to hundreds of other animals. Their status as endangered directly impacts the lives of 360 other animals ability to survive. Conservation matters!
We asked her to share a little more about this photo and her work with the gopher tortoises and their many roommates:
Gopher tortoises are the only native tortoise species in the southeastern US. They dig burrows up to 40 feet in length for protection from weather, fire, and predators, and are considered a keystone species because their burrows also provide refuge for over 360 other animals. Gopher tortoises are listed as federally threatened in Florida, and some animals, such as the indigo snake, are directly impacted by the gopher tortoises decline. This photo of the gopher tortoise and the southern toad was taken during the midday, summer heat in south Florida which is likely the reason the southern toad is taking refuge underground with the tortoise.
Many issues contribute to the decline of gopher tortoises, but their most significant threat today is habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation due to urban development. One way everyone can help with gopher tortoise conservation is by supporting conservation land-acquisition programs. In order to protect the gopher tortoise and the many species that depend on them, protection of their remaining habitats, as well as habitat restoration and management, should be of the highest priority.