Larry LaPre, a biologist with the
California Bureau of Land Management,
keeps his distance from an older male
Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT
By Julie Cart
Los Angeles Times (MCT)
IVANPAH Valley, Calif. — Stubborn does not come close to describing the desert tortoise, a species that did its evolving more than 220 million years ago and has since remained resolutely prehistoric.
Its slow-poke take on biological adaptation has exposed modern vulnerabilities. The persnickety reptile is today beset by respiratory infections and prone to disease. Its only defenses are the shell on its back and the scent of its unspeakably foul urine.
How this creature the size of a shoe box became the single biggest obstacle to industrial-scale solar development in the Mojave Desert is turning into a true story of the survival of the fittest.
At the $2.2 billion BrightSource Energy solar farm in the Ivanpah Valley, the tortoise brought construction to a standstill for three months when excavation work found far more animals than biologists expected.