We apologize for posting this gruesome image, but we feel strongly that it needs to be seen. We took this photograph a couple of years ago, while on a quick outing, after an exhausting day, at a work convention in Orlando, Florida. The photo has been tucked away in an old facebook album, virtually unnoticed until recently, when some SnakeBuddies happened upon it, and shared it. It got a decent amount of attention, and we realized that this photo tells a story… one that should no longer be collecting dust on a shelf.
This animal was a Gopher Tortoise, which is an endangered species, and is federally protected. I remember cruising this lonely dirt road, excited by the proposition of finding wildlife much different than we are accustomed to, in the dry Utah desert. I also remember seeing a large, dark mass in the road at a distance, and hoping it might be a small gator, or a snake, or virtually anything that we’d never seen in the wild before. The feelings of excitement and hope quickly turned to sadness, disgust and contempt, as we got out the rental car, to see the carnage left by some careless, cruel driver, and left for the Turkey Vultures to pick clean.
Having never seen a live Gopher Tortoise in the wild before, I was devastated by the macabre scene, strewn about in front of me. I knelt down beside it, with a tangible awareness that I was trespassing in his back yard. As a contributing member to a species with an enormous “footprint”, I couldn’t help but feel partially responsible for the precious life, cut decades short. Not really knowing why, I grabbed my camera and snapped this single picture. It wasn’t until I got home, and was going through my photos, that I really looked at the photo I had taken. In black and white, the picture lost some of the obvious gore, while somehow managing to better capture the mood and impact of the moment.
Please don’t think we believe that this event was any more devastating than the many others that happen on a daily basis. We completely understand that these tragic incidents happen accidentally on highways, freeways, and other high-speed, high-traffic roads. However, this was a mature tortoise, larger than a dinner plate, on a little traveled, and tiny dirt road, where legal speeds make this occurrence completely avoidable. The harsh reality, is that some thoughtless, thrill-seeking person (I use that term loosely) thought it would be fun to run over a completely harmless and endangered animal. It is unfortunate that as this planet’s most intelligent species, we humans do some very stupid things.
One of our primary goals (or at least hopes) of this blog, is that we might make a small difference, even if it seems unnoticeable. Through our combined efforts to share our passions and educate others, we firmly believe that we can and will inspire others to help protect the Gopher Tortoise and other helpless creatures. However, we must admit that we could never do it without our loyal “fans”. We want to express our sincere gratitude to our friends, who tracked down this old photo of ours, and reminded us that perhaps this tortoise’s life was not in vain. Your comments and obvious compassion, inspired us to share this photo and tell this important story. We would love it, if you readers would take one second to click on the facebook or Twitter buttons below, and share this with your friends, neighbors, and fellow animal lovers. You never know who it will touch, or just how many tortoises and other animals might make it safely across the road as a result.
In a few short months, we will be in Florida yet again, for another big trade show. We have high hopes that we might just be lucky enough to find our first live Gopher Tortoise, and look forward to sharing the adventure with all of our SnakeBuddies.
Educate. Inspire. Conserve.
Heartrending photograph. I saw a box turtle crossing a road and yanked my car aside to rescue him, running to retrieve him only to watch him crushed beneath the wheels of an SUV two feet from me. 😦 People need to slow down and care a little more.