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Bats and Tortoises, We Save Them All

On March 28th, Bat Conservation International’s Subterranean Program team became wildlife heroes for an unfortunate desert tortoise. BCI Subterranean Specialists Anthony Smith and Abram Haddon discovered the tortoise while surveying a mine shaft as a possible bat habitat. The tortoise, which had fallen into the mine and punctured its shell, was not in good shape. Wrapping it in a cast-off blanket found in the mine, Smith and Haddon brought the tortoise to the surface and prepared her for a long trip to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, where she could be treated and cared for. At 5 p.m., Timmy the Tortoise — though “he” was later determined to be a “she” — was delivered safe and sound to wildlife biologist Leslie Uhr. Though the wound is serious, Tammy the Tortoise is going to be okay, thanks to the efforts of BCI’s committed Subterranean Program team. 

Jack Purson
BCI Subterranean Specialist

UPDATE: Thanks to Jackie Worden for writing to us with this important information: Only people with proper permits should handle these endangered tortoises. If you find a wild desert tortoise that is injured, please contact one of these agencies for help. In the case of an emergency (like the above scenario), please wear gloves during any necessary handling, because desert tortoises are susceptible to human diseases. For more information, visit www.deserttortoise.org.

Tammy the Tortoise is discovered by BCI Subterranean Program Specialists in Feature 1187 near Tucson, AZ.


Tammy the Tortoise tries to smile, though she has a serious puncture wound in her shell.


Tammy the Tortoise, discovered in a mine shaft with a puncture wound in her shell, probably hadn’t seen the sun in many days or weeks.


The desert tortoise was discovered in Feature #1187, shown above.

Rescuers Anthony Smith and Abram Hadden prepare Tammy the Tortoise for her long drive to safety.

Tammy the Tortoise’s puncture wound had become infested with maggots.

Tammy the Tortoise was transported across the desert inside a “safe box” on the back of a BCI “BatQuad”.

Tammy the Tortoise is delivered to medical personnel at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

Wildlife biologist Leslie Uhr takes charge of Tammy’s recovery at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.


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Last Updated: Friday, 04 April 2014
Unless otherwise noted, all images are copyright ©Merlin D. Tuttle and/or ©Bat Conservation International