The tiny western swamp tortoise has big problems. It’s critically endangered; its home is disappearing; it’s a tasty morsel for invasive species like cats; and now there’s climate change to contend with. So to stave off the pint-sized reptile’s extinction, scientists are doing something unusual – and controversial. A team led by experts from the University of Western Australia has relocated around a dozen captive-bred tortoises to two sites about 250 kilometers outside of their known range north and south of Perth, because climate change is drying up their swampy habitat. Although their new home is still a little cold, temperatures should be perfect there in about 50 years. As part of the year-long trial, scientists are tracking the tortoises to see how they fare in a rare practical example of a disputed conservation tactic known as assisted colonization (or facilitated translocation). The idea is simple: Climate change is already making the homes of many critically endangered plants and animals uninhabitable – and that’s likely irreversible. So why not move them to a more a more suitable environment? “Climate change knows no boundaries. So, one option we are throwing out there is facilitated translocation,” John Morton, head biologist at the… Read full this story
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