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The Desert Tortoise

"And God made the beast of the earth ... and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind ... " Genesis 1:25

The desert tortoise, with its 12-inch-diameter arched shell, elephant-like hind legs, flat feet and short tail, lives in the deserts of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. It is an expert at digging, often digging burrows up to 30 feet long where it can hibernate for six months or more during the winter.

Some of these tortoises have been known to live well over 50 years. How do they find enough food to stay alive year after year in this harsh climate? We might not find much to eat in the desert, but the tortoises feed on the plants that grow there -- grass, flowers, wild fruit, certain shrubs and even the prickly desert cactus. Sometimes snails and insects are a part of their diet, too. But if food is scarce they can fast (not eat) for a month without harm. They hunt for food only in the cool hours of the morning and evening, crawling into their burrows or resting in the shade at other times.

The tortoise, though wondrously designed by the Creator to withstand fierce desert heat, does need water, which is a scarce item in the desert. God has given their bodies the ability to get all the water they need from the vegetation they eat. Of course, they drink water whenever they find it, usually from pools left by rainstorms, but that does not happen very often.

Early in June the female digs a dirt burrow nest several inches deep, making a cavern under the hard surface soil. Her eggs (about 10 of them) look like Ping-Pong balls. As each one drops into the nest, she packs dirt around it. Then she fills the whole nest with dirt, tamping it down and smoothing it over so it is cleverly concealed. From then on the eggs are "on their own," as are the young tortoises which hatch about 100 days later. It is amazing how they can hatch underground and stay alive as they dig their way to the surface. The Creator, whose eye is on every living thing, takes care of them even though we do not understand how He does it.

The newly hatched tortoises are exact miniatures of their parents and are about the size of a half-dollar. They have soft shells and need to hide or run quickly to avoid being eaten by vultures, coyotes and snakes. As their shells harden they become like a piece of armor. They soon learn that they have no need to fear harm from their enemies, and so they just go about the desert slowly and peacefully.

The world in which we live is often compared to a desert, too, in spite of all its glamour and attractions. God's enemies, encouraged by Satan, seem to be increasing daily. Yet, for those who love Him and know His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as their own Saviour, He has provided an armor to protect from all evil. (see Ephesians 6:10-17). The important thing is not just to know that the armor is provided, but as it says, "Put on the whole armour of God" (verse 11). Are you doing this?

Copied with permission from Messages of God's Love. More articles in The Wonders of God's Creation (Volume 1-4) by Sidney R. Gill, also published by Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, ILĀ 60101.

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