Alta Live: The Desert Tortoise Defender

Conservation scientist Tim Shields clues Alta Live in on the tricky—and often precarious—relationship between tortoises, ravens, and humans.

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Thank you so much for attending Alta Live with desert biologist Tim Shields and Alta Journal newsletter editor Matt Haber. If you missed any part of our conversation, you can catch up right here.

Here are some notable quotes from Shields from the event:

  • On the relationship between tortoises, ravens, and humans: “Tortoises are very conservative, behaviorally conservative animals. That doesn’t mean they’re dumb—they’re actually incredibly attuned to their environment and, I would say, intelligent. But they are cautious wilderness creatures. They evolved in the wilderness; it’s what they’re attuned to. And then you have the transformer, human beings. We transform landscapes on an unimaginable scale and [it’s] completely unprecedented in the history of our planet, that one species alters its environment for its own purposes to the degree we do. And then you’ve got the opportunists. Ravens say, ‘Thank you very much for spreading water all over the place, for building all these structures that we nest in, for running over wildlife on your roads so that we can eat the remains,’ on and on.”
  • On working as a conservationist, not an exterminator: “A raven that [conservation technology company] Hardshell educates is more valuable than a dead raven. If we can rewire the circuitry of living ravens, they will propagate the message.”
  • On technology’s role in environmental biology: “In an ideal situation, we wouldn’t need these tools, but I’ve come to the point, after a 35-year career in tortoise biology and conservation, that I don’t see an alternative to applying these tools as rapidly and as widely as possible. I am aware of the conflicts between solving a problem and then creating more problems. We have a real track record of creating more problems as we try to solve them.”

    Check out these links to some of the topics brought up.

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