What is the Gopher Tortoise Relocation Fund?
This is a dedicated fund managed by The Orianne Society to cover expenses associated with relocation of Gopher Tortoises from sites threatened by development or other types of habitat conversion.
What is the Gopher Tortoise and why is it a species of concern?
The Gopher Tortoise, Georgia’s state reptile, is found throughout much of South Georgia. It is currently a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act due to decades of continued habitat loss. If this species is federally listed, there will be cost and delays for development projects and impacts to other industries such as transportation, utilities, timber and agriculture, as well as to military bases.
A group of conservation partners, including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and The Orianne Society, have established an initiative to protect enough viable Gopher Tortoise habitat to assure multiple and sustainable long-term populations. This initiative is well on its way, and we hope to reach our goal of 65 permanently protected populations within the next few years.
So why do we need a Georgia Gopher Tortoise Relocation Fund?
Very often, Gopher Tortoises are found in the footprint of a proposed project, for instance a new agricultural, residential or commercial development. Although protected from intentional take under state law, the Gopher Tortoise is not protected from incidental take on private land, and there is no obligation on the landowner’s part to relocate tortoises to other suitable habitat prior to development. In these cases, a relocation team can work with the landowner to properly collect the tortoises, and then move them to suitable habitat on protected lands. Georgia DNR staff will determine which sites are suitable for relocation and provide the necessary permits.
Why does the Relocation Fund need contributions?
Relocating tortoises is expensive. They must be carefully dug or trapped from their burrows, carefully transported to a new, protected recipient site, then temporarily confined at the new site so they will not wander away in search of their original home, which typically happens if they are not temporarily penned. Without holding the tortoise at their new home long enough to acclimate, they will face hazards such as road mortality and unsuitable habitat features as they attempt to go home. After several months in their new habitat, they will develop site fidelity and lose the desire to return home. At that time, the pen can be removed, and the tortoises will enjoy well-managed, perpetually-protected habitat and likely contribute to the sustainability of the existing tortoise population at that site.
How can you help?
The Relocation Fund is filling a conservation gap. There are many organizations working together to purchase conservation land that will be protected in perpetuity for the Gopher Tortoises. This amazing initiative is requiring many millions of dollars from foundations, individuals, corporations and governmental agencies. However, there is a need on some private lands projects to relocate tortoises before their habitat is destroyed. On average, $100,000 will provide for the relocation of 50 to 100 tortoises to suitable habitat on protected conservation sites. You can help by contributing to this effort. All gifts are welcome, but those over $100 and over $1000 will make the contributor either a supporting member or a participating member of the Relocation Fund Support Group.
Please send your contributions to:
Georgia Gopher Tortoise Relocation Fund
c/o The Orianne Society
11 Old Fruit Stand Road
Tiger, GA 30576
Or donate on this page.
Contributions to the Georgia Gopher Tortoise Relocation Fund are tax deductible.