Honda® ATVs Power Recovery of Endangered Sea Turtles

8/1/2003 9:06:55 PM

Sea turtles are among the earth's oldest surviving species. Their existence dates back nearly 90 million years to the time of the dinosaurs, but, today, sea turtles are losing their place in the world. Plagued by exploitation, human development and habitat degradation, six of the world's seven sea turtle species are federally listed as endangered in U.S. waters.

Honda's Motorcycle Division has responded to this situation by supporting recovery efforts of the single most endangered species of sea turtle, the Kemp's-Ridley sea turtle. Joining a cooperative effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the government of Mexico, Honda donated eight all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to the Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Project, underway since 1978.

Honda ATVs patrol beaches in South Padre Island, Texas, and more than 100 miles of remote beach in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Project team members comb the beaches for nesting turtles, mark the sites, tag turtles, and collect eggs and relocate them to a protected area away from poachers, both human and animal. "The Honda ATVs have proven indispensable to accomplish this part of our job," said Dr. Pat Burchfield, U.S. field group coordinator. "We have used Honda all-terrain cycles exclusively for more than 23 years. Our fleet has grown from one three-wheeler in 1978 to more than 20 units which we operate under the harshest conditions imaginable."

Honda's OHV Media Coordinator Paul Slavik traveled to Mexico to see this project in person and see his company's ATVs in action. "This was one of the most amazing projects I've been involved in," says Slavik. "The project needed vehicles that were reliable, nimble and environmentally benign. And our ATVs turned out to be the perfect tool for the project to substantially increase and expand the mobility of the researchers."

"Honda has come through for this recovery effort in a big way," says Dr. Burchfield. "It takes time to see the results of recovery efforts, but we are beginning to see a recovery of this species. Within the next three to five years, and with Honda's help, we hope to see the Ridley sea turtle de-listed as endangered."

In 1999, approximately 3400 nests of Ridley sea turtles were identified in Mexico and about 20 were located along the South Texas coast. The current estimated population of nesting females is roughly 900, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Although nesting adults are concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Texas and on the eastern edge of Mexico, mature turtles migrate throughout the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast. The average Ridley sea turtle measures about 2 feet long and weighs between 70 and 95 pounds.