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Abstract

Efforts to evaluate the efficacy of translocation as a conservation tool have mostly been inadequate, particularly for reptiles and amphibians, leading many biologists to discount translocation as a viable management option. Nevertheless, with two-thirds of the world's tortoise and freshwater turtle species at risk, translocation may be one of the few remaining options for re-establishing extirpated populations and reconnecting fragmented ones. We translocated 106 gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) to a protected area within the historical range but with no resident tortoises and tested the effects of penning on site fidelity and activity area size. We assigned 38 adults and subadults to one of three penning treatments (9 months, 12 months and no penning) and radio-tracked them for 2 years. Penning significantly increased site fidelity and resulted in smaller activity areas. Our data suggest that translocation coupled with penning will improve the likelihood of establishing self-sustaining tortoise populations.