Dear Dr. Steven,
Florida's gopher tortoises have once again lost out to developers as another Wal-Mart store, this one in Palm Beach County, is constructed. Wal-Mart has been granted permits by the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife to entomb tortoises in their burrows rather than relocate them to suitable habitat. Because of their slow metabolism, it will take months for the entombed tortoises to die.
Gopher tortoises are designated a “species of special concern” in Florida and have declined by an estimated 80% throughout their range, largely due to habitat destruction. These slow-to-reproduce animals are acknowledged to be a “keystone” species—one that fundamentally supports a healthy ecosystem.
Florida offers developers two options to comply with the current regulations regarding impacts on gopher tortoises. They may obtain a permit to relocate tortoises, or take the cheaper route—as Wal-Mart has done—by obtaining a permit for “incidental take” (i.e. accidental killing) of gopher tortoises as a result of development. Developers can then bury tortoises alive, but must pay into a fund intended to purchase habitat for these animals elsewhere. The trouble is, the few acres set aside so far for tortoises aren’t likely to be sufficient to offset the continued loss of thousands of tortoises per year. The species' slow reproductive cycle means that recovery from such significant population declines will be prolonged, if not impossible.
What You Can Do:
Please contact Wal-Mart and ask the company to take responsibility for finding and relocating all the tortoises on site before they develop anywhere in gopher tortoise habitat, rather than dooming the tortoises to a slow death. Ask them to help the survival of gopher tortoises in Florida by, at a minimum, saving tortoises before they build, and preferably building only in areas where tortoises and other rare species do not occur.
You can email their ethics office at
or write to:
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 Southwest 8th Street,
Bentonville, Arkansas, U.S.A. 72716-0860
You can call:
Customer Line: 1-800-925-6278
Journalist Line: 1-479-273-4314.
Investor Line: 1-479-273-8446
You can go online and leave their headquarters feedback at: http://walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=221
Also, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ask them to stop the practice of issuing permits to entomb tortoises. Ask that they instead require that tortoises be found and relocated to suitable and protected habitat.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Farris Bryant Building
620 S. Meridian St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
You can call: 1-(850) 488-4676
Wildlife Law Violation Hotline: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)
24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., you may also page us directly by dialing 1-800-241-4653 and entering the ID# 274-4867. Please be sure to include your area code when paging.
You can go line and contact them at:
Send the Commission an email
Thank you for taking action on behalf of tortoises today!