After work today, I went straight to the grocery store. Usually I shop at Publix, but today (for some inexplicable reason) I decided to go to Wal-Mart. Poor choice on my part. I can’t complain about the prices, but the customer service was so bad that I was literally shaking my head as I walked out to the car.
So, my feelings about having spent almost a hundred dollars of my hard-earned money at the local hegemonic supermarket were already pretty negative. But then I got home and checked my email, and now I’m downright angry.
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I’m on the Humane Society’s emailing list, and the very first email I read after getting home (out of the dozens in my inbox) was one of their “Humane Action Network” alerts. And here are the opening two sentences of that email:
Florida’s gopher tortoises have once again lost out to developers as another Wal-Mart store, this one in Palm Beach County, is constructed. Wal-Mart has been granted permits by the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife to entomb tortoises in their burrows rather than relocate them to suitable habitat.
As you can imagine, that got my attention! So I read the entire thing, and then checked out a few of their links.
Basically, what it comes down to is this: Wal-Mart is choosing to build a new store on the habitat of the gopher tortoise, which has been designated a “species of special concern” (in other words, their survival is threatened). The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) requires that developers on such land do one of two things. They can relocate the tortoises to another area prior to building, or they can pay for a permit to kill.
That’s right. The revenue garnered from such permits is put into a fund to purchase land that will presumably be set aside for other gopher tortoises. However, if the developers choose this option, they get to kill every last tortoise on their plot of land.
And guess which option Wal-Mart chose?
Yep. They chose to pay for the permit. And why? Well, apparently it’s the slightly less expensive route.
So, a multi-billion dollar corporation has decided to pinch pennies and slaughter countless gopher tortoises, a species that is struggling for its very existence.
And just how will these harmless creatures die? Not a pleasant death, I have to say:
Gopher tortoises have evolved to evade danger by escaping to the safety of a burrow, a strategy that worked well when predators posed the primary threat to their survival. But when tortoises retreat to their burrows in an attempt to evade bulldozers and construction crews, they are often entombed under what ultimately becomes a strip mall or a subdivision. Because of their slow metabolism, entombed tortoises may take months to die of dehydration, starvation or suffocation.
This species has fared poorly in recent years:
Based on the FFWCC’s permit records, an estimated 68,000 gopher tortoises have died in Florida over the past 12 years as a result of development of new homes, businesses, and roads. Their deaths are a concern not only on humane grounds but also to conservationists: The species’ slow reproductive cycle and relatively late (9 to 11 years old) sexual maturity mean that recovery from significant population declines will be prolonged.
Some more information on these benevolent creatures can be found here.
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What can we do about this? In all likelihood, not much. But if you would like to try anyway, there are three good places to contact:
1 – Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716
2 – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
3 – Governor Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush, Governor
Executive Office of the Governor
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001