Army's Mass Tortoise Relocation

Where are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when you need them? As the U.S. Army prepares to expand training operations in the Mojave Desert, it hopes to move more than a thousand threatened California desert tortoises from their home, the Los Angeles Times reports, despite the fact that the animals have not fared well during previous relocations. Just last year, the Army moved more than 600 desert tortoises, but cut the $8.7 million program short, after officials noted high mortality rates among the animals—namely thanks to coyotes. Relocated tortoises also have a tendency to wander away from the relocation site, a further danger. The Army's proposal alarms conservationists, who point out that the animals' population is already plummeting, in part due to a respiratory disease. "Nothing's ever been done on this scale before," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Every time the animals recognize that they don’t know where they are, they have some built-in mechanism that tells them to head for home and they make a break for home."