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Las Vegas teenager on a mission to save desert tortoises with social media movement

By Jaclyn Schultz

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    LAS VEGAS, Nevada (KVVU) — A Las Vegas teenager is on a mission to save threatened desert tortoises across Nevada and has inspired a social media movement through the Desert Balloon Project.

The Desert Balloon Project Facebook page has more than 700 followers, and people regularly post and submit their photos of balloons discovered in the desert.

Christian Daniels, 16, was moved to start picking up trash after seeing numerous balloons during family hikes.

The threatened tortoises are attracted to Mylar balloons, believing them to be flowers.

“They’ll get inside their intestines and will suffocate them,” Daniels said. “It’s such a problem because a lot of the Mylar balloons are released are usually red to pink,” Daniels said. “I have found numerous tortoise shells,” he said.

Daniels’ family said the problem spurred him into action.

“That motivated him to hike more and more. Every bit of free time we have, Christian asked us to take him out in the desert,” father Bill Daniels said.

In a year-and-a-half, Daniels has collected 1,000 balloons and walked 800 miles.

“I started the Facebook page so I could bring awareness of how many balloons are out in the desert. Ever since I started there hasn’t been a single trip where I haven’t found a balloon,” Daniels said.

Daniels encourages people to stop the mass release of balloons, and if they are present in festivities, keep them tied, inside, and quickly deflate and dispose of them.

“I’ve lived in Vegas my entire life. I’ve grown up with the desert and I’ve really enjoyed it. And I don’t want that to get ruined because of balloons,” Daniels said.

NV Energy and the Tule Springs National Monument have partnered with Daniels to spread the message.

Daniels advises anyone looking to clean up the desert to bring water, sunscreen and a walking stick to pick up balloons; rattlesnakes often hide in bushes where balloons are stuck.

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