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Texas-tortoise-South-Rio-Grande-Valley-featThe elusive Texas tortoise is slow, brown, and shaped like a rock—all traits that make this small, rare reptile tough to spot as it scoots through the dense Tamaulipan thornscrub of the Rio Grande Valley. Jackie Tleimat, a PhD candidate in biology at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, knows this better than anyone. She’s spent a lot of time trying to find Texas tortoises, which live only in South Texas and parts of Mexico.In 2022, Tleimat placed about 45 game cameras across Cactus Creek Ranch, a four hundred-acre expanse outside the small town of Rio Hondo. Then she waited . . . and waited. While the camera captured plenty of deer, fiddler crabs, and nilgai, it was exceedingly rare for a tortoise to stroll in front of the…

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