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Tortoises being plucked from Tarpon development site

Suncoast News News Channel 8 and The Suncoast News
Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2013 at 07:45 PM

There may have been some agitation after having their current homes utterly destroyed, but it certainly beats the alternative for a number of tortoises.

As part of a collaborative effort between the Humane Society of the United States, Nokuse Plantation and Deeb Family Homes, nearly 20 threatened gopher tortoises were saved from being eventually covered by home foundations and neighborhood roadways.

"If this wasn't done, these gopher tortoises would be buried under construction. So this project really saves the gopher tortoise and gives them a second chance," said Dave Pauli, response director with the Humane Society.

The gopher tortoise is a threatened species and protected by state law in Florida. It digs deep tunnels underground and helps provide habitat for up to 350 other species of plants and animals, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Rescuers found 20 gopher tortoises in two days at the Keystone Springs site, ranging in age from 1 to more than 50 years old. The reptiles can live to 100.

Several private donors helped pay for the removal, including Erika Seshadri, a wildlife biologist and Humane Society's Florida state council.

"I just think it's really important for the species to survive, every individual counts at this point because they are a threatened species," Seshadri said.

She would not say how much she donated for the work.

The animals were relocated to Nokuse Plantation, a permanently protected, 48,000-acre wilderness on the panhandle in Walton County. or (727) 815-1071