Within the desert’s fragile ecosystem, tortoise populations are rapidly diminishing and in some places they have disappeared completely. Losses are due to habitat degradation, predation, disease, and collections for pets (now illegal). Habitat has been lost or damaged from mining, livestock grazing, development of desert lands for agriculture, sub-divisions, high-ways, industrial uses and off-road vehicle use.
Tortoise populations grow slowly because of their low reproductive potential. Females do not breed until 15 to 20 years old and then may lay clutches of eggs only when adequate forage is available. Survival of juveniles is low, only 2-3 per 100 hatched may live to become adults.