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Girl Scouts Raise Awareness of Nearby Threatened Wildlife

sign 1 troop

Earlier this spring the girls in Junior Troop 60720 from the Beautiful Waters Service Unit embarked on their Girl Scout Bronze Award project. Ashley, Avaleigh, and Gabriella worked together on a Gopher Tortoise and Habitat Protection Awareness Campaign. This project was a natural fit because there are many gopher tortoises around the area where the girls go to school and have their Girl Scout meetings. Their goal was to create awareness in their community so more people would become gopher tortoise-wise.

These girls have been very busy working on an awareness campaign that consisted of an educational program, digital message boards along two Pinellas County roads, a direct mail campaign, designing and producing signage for a Girl Scout camp, speaking at Pinellas County Board Meeting and receiving a Proclamation which states that annually on April 11, in Pinellas County, is Gopher Tortoise Awareness Day, and creating awareness on social media. 

Troop 60720 with Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, from left to right, Commissioner Dave Eggers,  Troop 60720 Leader Kim Maszera, Gabriella, Chair Janet Long, Avaleigh, Ashley, Commissioner Charlie Justice, Vice-Chair Kenneth Welch

In May, the girls hosted an educational program at Camp Wai Lani on gopher tortoises and how to protect them and their habitats. They arranged for Eric Sievers, a Marine Biologist from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission as their guest speaker. During the event, Girl Scouts planted new plants for tortoises, played a game of Gopher Tortoise Freeze Tag, met Polly a 4-year-old tortoise. To top it off, Troop 720 unveiled new signage that was placed at Camp Wai Lani which is home to over 12 tortoise burrows.

From left to right- Eric Sievers from FFWC, Troop 60720 Leader Kim Maszera, Avaleigh, Ashley at the unveiling ceremony of the tortoise signage placed at 12 burrows at Camp Wai Lani

Girl Scouts protecting the gopher tortoise by planting its desired diet around Camp Wai Lani.

Learn More about Gopher Tortoises
Gopher tortoises are long-lived reptiles that occupy Florida forests, pastures, and yards. They dig deep burrows for shelter and forage on low-growing plants. Gopher tortoises share their burrows with more than 350 other species so they are called the "keystone species".  In Florida the gopher tortoise is listed as threatened. Conservation of gopher tortoises depends not only on the efforts of Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and other groups, but also on Florida's citizens, like three Girl Scouts from Tarpon Springs, FL.

Tortoise Truths:

  • Gopher Tortoise Awareness Day is April 11th in Pinellas County. 
  • See a gopher tortoise in the road? An adult can pick up and move to the side of the road, placing tortoise in the same direction.
  • It is illegal to keep a gopher tortoise, dig or disturb its burrow.
  • Do not move a gopher tortoise to a new location.
  • The gopher tortoise is protected under Florida law, 68A- 27 of the Florida Administration code.

Learn how you can earn the Girl Scout Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.  

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