WUFT News

Florida Aims to Protect Gopher Tortoises with App

By on April 8th, 2014
A Florida gopher tortoise in its natural habitat. A new app by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will receive geographic locations of the threatened species through user-generated images.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

A Florida gopher tortoise in its natural habitat. A new app by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will receive geographic locations of the threatened species through user-generated images.

Threatened animal species protection — there’s an app for that.

The free “Florida Gopher Tortoise” App allows the public to submit photos with GPS coordinates of tortoises or their burrows to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC. The app will help scientists gather data on the locations of tortoises in the state.

Allie Perryman, local government coordinator for the FWC, said the idea originated as a way to get Florida residents and visitors involved in tortoise conservation.

“As the photos are submitted to us, they go into a database,” Perryman said. “Our plan is to have a map on our website where anybody can pull up the map and zoom into their neighborhood or any area they want to look at and find out if there were any tortoise sightings.”

The app has been downloaded on about 700 smartphones since the March 12 announcement, Perryman said. It includes quizzes and educational information about gopher tortoises.

The FWC is trying to protect the species and make others aware because there has been a decrease in tortoise populations due to a loss in habitat, slowness to reach sexual maturity and longer life spans. Predation on nests and hatchlings is also a risk, according to the FWC Gopher Tortoise Management Plan from September 2012.

Samantha Dupree, FWC gopher tortoise conservation biologist, said although the tortoises are found throughout Florida, they are more densely populated in the North Central and Central Florida regions compared to the Panhandle or South Florida.

About 785,000 gopher tortoises are found in Florida, according to the most recent FWC biological status report in 2006. Biological status reports are only done when evaluating a petition to list or delist a species.

“The gopher tortoise population can be very difficult to estimate because a single tortoise can have multiple burrows,” Perryman said. Since not all suitable habitats are occupied by tortoises and not all mature adult tortoises reproduce, she said the number of tortoises may actually be lower.

With the help of the Florida Gopher Tortoise app, the FWC is hoping to fill the data gap for the number of gopher tortoises not counted by its staff.

This is the first time the FWC has created an app to contribute to citizen science. The FWC researched the Mojave Desert Tortoise app before creating their own. The Mojave Desert Tortoise app also records the location of user-uploaded images and sends the results to researchers.

Kathy Russell, general curator for the Zoo Animal Technology Program at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, said its staff tags injured gopher tortoises and later transfers them to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. After receiving necessary treatment, the tortoises rehabilitate at the zoo until they are ready to be released back into their natural environment.

Dr. Jim Wellehan, from the Zoological Medicine Service at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, said the vast majority of gopher tortoises they receive are victims of dog attacks or were hit by cars.

Some of the treatments the tortoises receive before rehabilitating at the zoo include negative-pressure wound therapy, a vacuum-assisted closure technique that helps heal significant wounds. Other treatments the tortoises receive include other wound care techniques and shell repair techniques.

Russell said the zoo takes care of about 15 to 30 injured gopher tortoises a year, and most of the rehabilitation occurs during the summer months.

Russell believes the app is a step in the right direction.

“I think that’s the only way they’ll get data — and it’s reliable data,” she said.

The FWC encourages those who find injured tortoises to report sightings to their wildlife alert hotline.


This entry was posted in Environment and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Cpt. States

    Our emotions are exploited relentlessly by those who oppose liberty and understand the manipulative power of the mass-TV-media.

 

More Stories in Environment

Water-Saving Technologies And Conservation Goals Cut Confusion

According to a recent survey, most people are confused about water conservation. Small efforts add up, but awareness of water consumption is most important, according to GRU.


Only a few areas of the Alachua Sink have open-water surfaces. Rangers believe the cooler, dryer weather typical of Florida winters will kill off some of the vegetation growing on the surface.

Paynes Prairie Trail Undergoes Reclamation Project

Construction on the La Chua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park began Monday as part of an effort to re-establish the area of Paynes Prairie as a wetland ecosystem.


Florida-Friendly Landscaping Saves Water And Fertilizer

According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Center for Public Issues Education (PIE) website, many Floridians are willing to do their part in conserving water.


Unincorporated Citrus County Residents To Lose Some Recycling Services

Some residents in unincorporated parts of Citrus County will see new recycling rules implemented next week.


Kevlar gloves are used by Gainesville’s Northwest Seafood when filleting lionfish in order to protect against the venomous barbs.

If You Can’t Fight Them, Fry Them

Lionfish are being pushed to Florida menus following August regulation changes on the venomous invasive species’ importation. While dangerous to catch, they are easy to eat as conservation efforts try to save the reefs by increasing demand for the destructive fish.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments