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Scientist Fights For Endangered Tortoise With Secret Weapon: Lasers
Ravens pose a threat to the very existence of the desert tortoise (CCSS Level: Grade 6, Words: 399)
Nov 1, 2016 Science & Technology

In the Mojave desert in the south-west of the USA, ravens are wiping out the desert tortoise. There has been a huge increase in the number of ravens living in this dry desert area. Some estimates put the growth of the birds' population over the last 25 years at around 700%. All of these birds need food, and the desert tortoise provides a very tasty snack for a hungry raven.

A baby desert tortoise has very little defense against the strong beak of a raven. The little reptile does have a shell, but until it gets much older it is quite soft. They raven has no trouble breaking through and eating the soft delicacy inside.

The growth in raven populations, combined with low rainfall and disease, are all having a huge impact on tortoises. Their numbers have dropped 90% over the last few years. And it is not only the tortoises that are being affected. Ravens eat other birds, as well as lizards and snakes.

Coming to their rescue is super-hero and tortoise expert Tim Shields. Shields has spent more than forty years studying desert tortoises in the Mojave desert. Now he wants to help them to survive and avoid extinction. Coming to the aid of the tortoises, he has brought weapons including robots, lasers, 3D-printed lures and his knowledge of how ravens "think".

Shields first weapon is remote controlled robots with cameras that thousands of online helpers can drive around the desert, keeping an eye on turtles and scaring away ravens. Then there are the lasers beams. Shields has been using lasers to sweep around the desert to frighten the birds. Ravens really don't like the light from a laser and after firing the beams at the birds, Shields found they would stay away for weeks.

Another way to convince the birds to be scared of tortoises is to make replicas using 3D printers. The fake tortoises can be packed with unpleasant chemicals and can also sound a noisy alarm when disturbed. Some could even have the lasers as well, so that the attacking birds really get the message to "stay away".

The trials have only just begun, but Shields is sure that, with help, he can change the ravens eating habits. Shields is obviously very attached to the tortoises of the Mojave. "If they were completely wiped out, I would be crushed. It would be hard to take", he commented.

What reason is given for the fall in tortoise numbers?
all of these
The phrase "I would be crushed" means…
I would be very very upset
I would be broken into pieces
I would be squeezed by something
I would feel very strongly about it
The fact that scientists are trying to "train" birds to leave tortoises alone shows that the birds are…
quite stupid
very intelligent
not sensitive
always hungry
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in addition to



joined or stuck to something



keep away from something



separate into pieces, smashing



form of matter



put together, mixed



to finish, end 



totally, entirely



operate a machine or equipment / the power to change or direct something



persuade, make people believe something



defending against attack



a special or expensive food



rough judgements of the number or value of something



the process of an animal becoming extinct or disappearing



not genuine or real



made afraid or worried



a strong effect



containing, having as part of the whole



growing or becoming greater



a high-energy beam of light



easily seen, clear



easily seen or recognized



while connected to a computer



the people who live in a particular place



the numbers of people living in a place



controlled by a user at a distance, using radio



an exact copy or model of something



having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or level



the outer part or covering



a small amount of food eaten between meals



live, especially after illness or injury



a plant-eating turtle that lives on land



a test of how something works