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Save the Desert Tortoise with fake tortoises.

Reverse Batesian Mimicry!
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The desert tortoise has lots of problems, but a big one is ravens. As more people move into the Southern Californian deserts, more ravens come to eat their trash. Ravens also love to eat baby tortoises. One article I found called ravens in this context "subsidized predators" which I thought was a neat term. Result: less tortoises.

In my search, I found a few ideas on how to fix this. 1.Kill ravens by shooting them. This seems laborious and probably not too effective. 2.Clean up trash - haw haw. 3. Raise turtles and turn them loose when grown up with hard shells. 4. Hide baby turtles in holes. etc etc.

Ravens are really smart. They have culture, and teach things to each other and to their chicks. That could be used against them. I propose that fake baby turtles that can fool a raven be created. They might have a hard baked glazed or waxed pastry shell with an interior of some sort of dogfood-like preserved meat. The hard pastry shell would prevent lesser predators (eg ants) from getting the meat. They would be colored like a baby tortoise. The meat within would be poisoned - but the critical thing is that it would not be lethal. It would be something like ipecac - the raven would get very sick. It would remember that baby tortoises are bad. Tortoises would gradually be off the diet of ravens.

The trick is making a realistic tortoise mimic. This would be all about trial and error, and watching the ravens. I doubt that the fake needs to move to fool the raven - it is a tortoise after all. The other good thing is that ravens cluster around trash, and so one would not need to spread fakes over the whole desert - they could be concentrated at trash dumps.

bungston, Jul 15 2006

Desert tortoises and ravens http://www.nwf.org/...ID=23&articleID=201
[bungston, Jul 15 2006]

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       But the ravens may begin to learn to just not eat the baby tortoises in the trash dump, and go a little further afield. I'm also not so sure that the shell would be able to stop ants getting in.   

       I like the thought for tortoises, they could do with some help.
fridge duck, Jul 15 2006
  

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       Could you atleast be consistant with which reptile this idea applies to?
Antegrity, Jul 16 2006
  

       as much as I love this, aren't we supposed not to mess with nature?
po, Jul 16 2006
  

       Alternatively, we could go the entire pig and really mess with nature. Genetically modify the specific species of tortoise (you keep inexplicably hopping between tortoise and turtle - two entirely different animals: one is aquatic, the other isn't - I'm adhering to the animal in the title) so that the shell is poisonous and brightly coloured (advertising the fact).   

       Then once the word is out on that, remove the poison from the next generation, so that we're back to ordinary tortoises, only with bright colours that mimic the lethal ones (in the same manner that many insects mimic other actually poisonous species, without having to go to all the effort of being poisonous themselves).   

       The ravens, from the first generation of poisoning experience onwards, will spread the general ethos throughout subsequent generations like a kind of virally poisonous mindset, in much the same way that generations brought up during the war years, or the depression years, structured their family values to embody scarcity as a behavioural norm, leading to generations growing up in the sixties innocently inheriting a crippling poverty mindset when there's no real reason for such any more. Blame the parents.
Ian Tindale, Jul 16 2006
  

       /inexplicably hopping/ explication: I screwed up. But since this seems to have attracted as much attention as the idea, I will leave it so the annos make sense.   

       Poison shell - no need for GMO. Just put poisonous stuff on the shell of baby tortoises. It is not like the tortoise will groom it off. But this works only for real tortoises, which are scarce - you could easily get thousands of fakes.
bungston, Jul 16 2006
  

       The last thing you want is the fakes to reproduce at a greater rate, displacing the real ones and becoming regarded as a pest. Look what happened in Australia.
Ian Tindale, Jul 16 2006
  

       that's so funny!
po, Jul 16 2006
  

       What happened in Australia? The faux Royal subjects reproduced at a greater rate than expected and displaced the real subjects and indigenous population?
methinksnot, Jul 16 2006
  

       Once you put the non-posionous/ colorful ones back into the system, wouldn't it take just as long for the ravens to unlearn what they learned when they were learning? One or two of them are going to try out the new shelled reptile (I am avoiding the whole tortoise/ turtle debacle), find them not to be deadly or illinateous and then you're right back to where you started.
NotTheSharpestSpoon, Jul 17 2006
  

       That's the power of their culture.   

       I thought this was going to be an idea to fill fake shelled creatures with artificial sperm and have 'em going around having their way with the lady shelled creatures.   

       Don't mess with the raven's culture, it's too strong. Exploit the shelled creature's lack thereof.
daseva, Jul 17 2006
  

       This'll work until the fake raven start appearing to lessen the amount of fake tortoises. Then the whole thing just escalates.
RayfordSteele, Jul 17 2006
  

       A rare occurrence of when undercooking the idea actually produces a better result - even if you do half to overbake the fake. Bravo!
Notes, Dec 03 2017
  

       // aren't we supposed not to mess with nature? //   

       Oh gods, you and your sad whiny hand-wringing Federation and your pathetic idealistic Prime Directive ... no-one else bothers with that shit, not the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Ferengi, and certainly not the Klingons ...get real.
8th of 7, Dec 03 2017
  

       Sp. Cardassians.
pertinax, Dec 04 2017
  

       Sp. Kardashians
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 04 2017
  

       You're welcome.
pertinax, Dec 04 2017
  

       I propose miniaturised anti-raven missile defence systems mounted on the back of tortoises (with glue). These would scan the sky for incoming ravens and launch pre-emptive missile strikes against them.
hippo, Dec 04 2017
  

       Clever
Voice, Dec 04 2017
  

       //I propose miniaturised anti-raven missile defence systems mounted on the back of tortoises (with glue).//   

       All for that. My neighborhood used to be filled with beautiful song birds, now we've got nothing but crows, digging through garbage cans, spreading filth all over the place and giving you stink eye and "cawing" at you when you bring the garbage out.   

       I looked up an article addressing whether or not crows reduce the song bird population, saw that the idiot wrote "Technically, crows are songbirds..." and obviously didn't read any more.   

       Crows are songbirds like farting is flute music.
doctorremulac3, Dec 04 2017
  

       // now we've got nothing but crows //   

       That's because cats have killed everything smaller than a crow.   

       Train the crows to predate cats. Problem solved.
8th of 7, Dec 04 2017
  

       I'm pretty sure that crows predate cats by several tens of millions of years.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 04 2017
  

       Not only are crows obnoxious, they can recognize different people and call to each other to announce threats. They're very intelligent. For a stupid bird that is.   

       Unfortunately where I live, killing a crow is probably a much more serious crime than killing a human.   

       We give crows a pass despite this disturbing fact: If they were big enough, they would kill you and eat you. That of course goes for any predatory bird but we're not talking about them now. Although come to think of it, cute baby ducklings would probably eat you if they were big enough as well.
doctorremulac3, Dec 04 2017
  

       So would anthrax spores, if they were big enough.
Ian Tindale, Dec 04 2017
  

       Fishermen say " if bluegill were any bigger it wouldn't be safe to go in the water "   

       I have to be skeptical about that whole "domestic cats allowed outdoors affect the songbird population" - have you ever watched a cat hunt?   

       It's similar to me hunting for a girlfriend - yes, there is an effect on the population, but they're being produced faster than I can bed/wed them.   

       Hmmm, I wonder what the analogy police are going to say about that one ...
normzone, Dec 04 2017
  

       Analogy police? That’d be like having a police force, concerned with analogies.
Ian Tindale, Dec 04 2017
  

       Not in the UK, then. The police there are only concerned with covering up their own gross incompetence, and they're depressingly bad even at doing that.   

       // have you ever watched a cat hunt? //   

       Almost daily, usually through a telescopic sight. Why ?   

       About this tortoise in the desert ... you're not helping. Why is that, Leon ?
8th of 7, Dec 04 2017
  

       //have you ever watched a cat hunt?//   

       If you can see it hunting, it's not doing it very well. Conversely, if tweety-pie, who is well-motivated to watch out, didn't see it, then you probably didn't either.
pertinax, Dec 04 2017
  
      
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