The US Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday announced that the Sonoran desert tortoise no longer faces risks of extinction – not in the next 10 years, and will therefore be removed from the federal protection list.
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Following a discovery that rising human population in Arizona and Northern Sonora in Mexico where the tortoise can be found is threatening its habitats, the Sonoran desert tortoise was offered federal protection and listed as endangered in 2010 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The US Fish and Wildlife Service disclosed that the formerly endangered tortoise was able to bounce back from extinction as a result of aggressive conservation efforts mounted by government agencies and individuals in granting immunity to the animal.
Wildlife experts however said they decided to remove the said tortoise from the endangered list because extensive computer modeling of its habitats reveal human and other environmental threats are not as grim as they were several years ago.
"We and our federal and state partners will continue to monitor the tortoises. However, the current modeling in science demonstrates that there's virtually no probability of extinction over the next decade," spokesman Jeff Humphrey said.
It must however be noted that despite the fact that the Sonoran desert tortoise has been removed from federal protection, it will continue to obtain state protection because it continues to be a “species of greatest conservation need.”
The tortoise was initially classified as endangered because of the threats it faced from wild fire, climate change, human residents, livestock grazing, and other invasive species.
To this end, ranchers can now freely develop their property and homebuilders can engage in what they know how to do best because listing the animal had posed some limitations to them in times past. Spenser Kamps of the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona said listing the creature for protection under ESA had negatively affected housing developing.
But then, conservationists continue to be worried about the future of the sonoran desert tortoise, saying the decision of wildlife experts to remove it from endangered list was reliant on theoretical facts and not on hard data.
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"Clearly, we need to look at that data and find out what's going on," said Watersheds Project California director Michael Connor. "It's not clear as to whether the service used any real population analysis."