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Press Release

EL PASO ZOO TO HOST BOLSON TORTOISE CONSERVATION WORKSHOP AS PART OF REINTRODUCTION PROJECT

El Paso, Texas (February 11, 2013) - The El Paso Zoo will host a group of veterinarians and biologists this week as a part of the Bolson Tortoise reintroduction project managed by the Turner Endangered Species Fund. The project was created in an effort to grow the Bolson Tortoise population to a size that will allow release in the wild.

The team, consisting of leading experts in the study and diagnosis of reptiles from the University of Georgia (Dr. Stephen Divers, DVM), the El Paso Zoo (Veterinarian, Dr. Victoria Milne, DVM), the Turner Endangered Species Fund (tortoise biologists Dr. Christiane Wiese, PhD, and Mr. Scott Hillard), the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ (Dr. James Jarchow, DVM), and private practice (Dr. Peter Koplos, DVM) will gather to examine the reproductive structures of young Bolson tortoises using an endoscopic technique. The specialized procedure involves inserting a tiny fiber optic camera into the belly of the tortoise to see whether the tortoise is male or female. Knowing the gender of the tortoises will assist the group’s effort to breed the species.

"Once again, this collaboration demonstrates the conservation impact the El Paso Zoo has on a species under immense pressure in the wild. We're giving attention to an important species that only a handful of organizations are involved with," said Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Victoria Milne.

The team assembling at the El Paso Zoo this week, will examine the sex of tortoises that were incubated at known and predetermined temperatures in order to establish the parameters of what is known as "temperature-dependent sex determination" for the Bolson Tortoise. By doing so, the team will make significant contributions to the study of the Bolson Tortoise and to the knowledge that will help optimize the management and recovery efforts for this endangered species.

The gender study is part of a larger project that aims to establish free-living Bolson Tortoises in the northern portion of their prehistoric range – in this case, on ranch properties owned by Ted Turner near Truth or Consequences, NM. The Bolson Tortoise reintroduction project managed by the Turner Endangered Species Fund also includes the Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad, NM and the El Paso Zoo.

"We're really proud of our staff who are willing to assist. We also think it's important for the community to know that their continued support and attendance allows us to take part in important conversation projects like this," said Zoo Director Steve Marshall.

Currently, the population of Bolson Tortoises in the wild is unknown. They are currently listed as "vulnerable" in the in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

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Locally recognized as the Best Place to Take the Kiddos, the El Paso Zoo sits on 35 acres of fun and adventure. Bigger and better than ever, the El Paso Zoo is an expansive green space that is home to exotic animals from around the world and features family attractions such as the African Star train and the Hunt Family Desert Spring. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the El Paso Zoo celebrates the value of animals and natural resources and creates opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature. For more information, visit elpasozoo.org. For news and exclusive content, follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/elpasozoo) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/theelpasozoo).

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Our mission is to celebrate the value of animals and natural resources and to create opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.