Release reptiles into burrows

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • One study evaluated the effects of releasing reptiles into burrows on their populations. This study was in the USA.



  • Survival (1 study): One replicated study in the USA found that both releasing translocated gopher tortoises into abandoned or artificial burrows or releasing without burrows had low success, but providing burrows inside release pens resulted in more successful translocations.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated study in 1980–1982 in five areas of pine forest in Mississippi, USA (Lohoefener & Lohmeier 1986) found that both releasing gopher tortoises Gopherus polyphemus into abandoned or artificial burrows and releasing tortoises with no burrows had low success, but providing burrows inside of release pens tended to result in more successful translocations. Results were not statistically tested. Success of translocations of tortoises placed in abandoned burrows or artificial burrows without release pens was low (Abandoned: 1 of 5 successful; artificial: 0 of 3), as was success of releases without a burrow or pen (0 of 11). When translocated gopher tortoises were initially held in release pens with artificial burrows, 17 of 21 translocations were successful. Forty individually-marked adult gopher tortoises (some may have been captive-bred) were translocated in spring–summer 1980–1982 (one tortoise = one translocation). Tortoises were released into either abandoned existing burrows (5 tortoises), artificial burrows (1 m deep; 3 tortoises), artificial burrows in circular release pens for 2–4 weeks (4–7 m diameter pens; 21 tortoises) or were directly released with no specific management (11 tortoises). Tortoises were monitored until late summer or early autumn in the release year and translocations were judged successful if previously abandoned burrows became active and a translocated tortoise was found in them, or new tortoise burrows were dug in areas without pre-existing tortoise populations.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

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Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

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