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Military to Move Desert Tortoises from California Base

In this photo taken Sept., 30, 2015, Combat Center Chief of Staff, Col. James F. Harp releases a tortoise during the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs-hosted ceremony, near Twentynine Palms, Cailf. (Lauren Kurkimilis\U.S. Marines Corps via AP)
In this photo taken Sept., 30, 2015, Combat Center Chief of Staff, Col. James F. Harp releases a tortoise during the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs-hosted ceremony, near Twentynine Palms, Cailf. (Lauren Kurkimilis\U.S. Marines Corps via AP)

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Military officials plan to move more than a thousand desert tortoises to keep them safe from training exercises in Southern California.

The Press Enterprise reports that the military is awaiting final approval to relocate 1,429 tortoises from land surrounding the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms. Congress approved adding that land to the Marine Corps base in 2013.

Training exercises with tanks and live ammunition are scheduled to begin in August.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Brian Croft says most of the animals would be moved to federal land near Barstow using helicopters.

Studies have shown that relocated tortoises have a higher death rate. The military says it will take efforts to minimize tortoise deaths and will follow the animals for decades, looking for information that will help the species recover.

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