Desert Tortoise baby at 

Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

We are celebrating Tortoise Week in Joshua Tree! This unique species has been on planet earth for an estimated 15-20 million years and can live to 100 years old. They spend around 95% of their time underground in burrows up to 30 feet in length. When they do come out they’re usually looking for a mate or to consume a diet of grasses, wildflowers, cactus pads, and wild fruit.

Unfortunately, tortoise populations have plummeted in recent decades due to habitat loss, drought, disease, and increased raven predation. This has caused them to now be classified as a federally threatened species, one category away from endangered.

photograph: NPS / Danial Elsbrock

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