Last of animals being released or shipped out by November 1

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A final batch of desert tortoises has been released into the wild as a refuge near Las Vegas prepares to close after over 20 years in operation.

Operators of the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center have emptied the facility in advance of its December shutdown.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to close the 220-acre center last year after its federal funding was eliminated.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the center’s contract operator, the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, has since been releasing healthy tortoises into the wild.

The center was caring for roughly 1,400 turtles as recently as 18 months ago, but all that remain are about 50 awaiting shipment to facilities in Nevada and Utah.

Since 1989, the desert tortoise has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

 

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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