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More than 150 desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) were relocated away from a BrightSource solar energy project in California. Photo credit: Thinkstock
More than 150 California desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) that were displaced when a BrightSource solar energy project near the California/Nevada border began construction have been relocated and released near the vicinity in which they were first taken, according to a report in the Press Enterprise. The tortoises, 166 in all, were removed last year from 5.6 square miles of public land during the first phase of the project's construction and placed in quarantine. The relocation of the tortoises was completed at an estimated cost of $22 million, according to the solar energy company.
According to the report, the tortoises can only be released when certain temperature conditions are met, and must be relocated in certain geographic locations. Some tortoises are confined to a specific area until they establish a territory. The tortoises were released in the shade of creosote bush that is at least one and a half feet high and have been checked to ensure they are healthy, hydrated and wiped clean of human scent. They have been fitted with radio transmitters to track their movements. BrightSource says that 50 miles of tortoise-proof fencing has been erected to ensure the tortoises don't end up back where they originated from.
The desert tortoise can grow to 8 to 10 lbs and its range is the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of Southern California, southern Nevada and Arizona, and certain areas of Mexico. It is a protected species throughout its range.