Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Georgia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Georgia Project

Restoration of a Relict Population of Gopher Tortoises Through Translocation of Waif Animals

January 2017 - April 2019


Participating Agencies

  • University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) has declined over most of its range and is currently a candidate for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Active conservation management is being employed, including the translocation of “waif” tortoises (animals temporarily in human custody that cannot be returned to the point of origin in the wild) in some efforts to augment existing populations. The efficacy of translocating waif animals for the purpose of population augmentation is unknown, both with respect to the demographic performance of released tortoises and the health of the population into which they are released. This research, conducted at an isolated site on the periphery of the range, will provide needed information on the benefits and risks of translocating waif tortoises. This research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. This research will be used by conservation agencies and their partners to weigh the risks of using waif animals for reintroduction stock for the augmentation of existing populations.

Research Publications Publication Date
McKee, R. K., K. A. Buhlmann, C. T. Moore, J. Hepinstall-Cymerman, and T. D. Tuberville. 2021. Waif gopher tortoise survival and site fidelity following translocation. Journal of Wildlife Management 85:640-653. | Download May 2021
Presentations Presentation Date
McKee, R., K. Buhlmann, W. Dillman, B. Kesler, N. Stacy, M. Allender, C. Moore, and T. Tuberville. 2019. An island of misfit tortoises: Assessing the survival and health of translocated waif gopher tortoises. Oral presentation at Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, 4-8 August 2019, Tucson, AZ. August 2019
Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
McKee, R. K. 2019. An island of misfit tortoises: Evaluating the use of waif tortoises to recover populations on the brink. M.S. thesis, University of Georgia, Athens. May 2019