April 10, 2018 (Sanford, FL) – The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens joins other Florida counties, cities, and various entities in adopting April 10 as Gopher Tortoise Day, in coordination with the Gopher Tortoise Council and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Gopher tortoises are vital animals for our native ecosystems, and by adopting April 10 as Gopher Tortoise Day, the Central Florida Zoo is helping to shine a light on these important reptiles.
Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) occur in all 67 counties in Florida. They prefer sandy, dry soil to create their burrows, which can often be up to seven feet deep and 15 feet in length. Over 350 other species utilize gopher tortoise burrows as a home or refuge, including the eastern indigo snake, burrowing owl, and Florida pine snake. Because of this, gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species: its existence is vital to the survival of the plant life and wildlife in its habitat.
As a local conservation and education resource, the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is proud to be able to educate our guests about the importance of gopher tortoises and the threats they face in the wild. The Zoo is home to three Ambassador gopher tortoises that educate school children, guests, and the community while allowing the exciting opportunity to see one of these tortoises up-close. By adopting April 10 as Gopher Tortoise Day, the Zoo is continuing to build on our important role as environmental educators.
Raising awareness about the gopher tortoise is especially vital to the Central Florida Zoo’s conservation programs at the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation. The OCIC breeds, raises, and releases the eastern indigo snake, another threatened and protected species in Florida. The eastern indigo snake depends on gopher tortoise burrows, as the warm burrows are excellent nest sites,” says Dino Ferri, CEO. “Without preserving gopher tortoises and the habitats they live in, the eastern indigo snake would also suffer.”
Join us today, April 10, as we celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day! You can encourage family, friends, neighbors, and more to learn more about this amazing native species and Gopher Tortoise Day at gophertortoisedayfl.com