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Efforts to Save Mexican Sea Turtles Making Progress - 2002-07-11

Special to VOA Internet

Wildlife officials say this is the best year in history for a decades-long U.S.-Mexican cooperative effort to save the Kemp's ridley sea turtle from extinction.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife contract officer Pat Burchfield says more than 6,200 nests, an all-time high, have been laid at or near Rancho Nuevo, the lone Mexican nesting beach. As important, 37 more turtles have nested at Padre Island National Seashore or elsewhere along the Texas coast, establishing a viable secondary nesting site.

Just 17 years ago, when the world population fell to an estimated few hundred adults and only about 280 nesting females, scientists felt the Kemp's ridley would soon become extinct.

The rarest sea turtle in the world, The Kemp's ridley was hunted almost to extinction for its beautiful, resilient leather and its eggs, thought to be aphrodisiacs. It was especially vulnerable because, until recently, it nested on only a single 40-kilometer strand of Mexican Gulf Coast beach.

This year's nesting appears to vindicate a 40 year-conservation effort by U.S. and Mexican wildlife agents that included a complex "head starting," or transplanting, of Mexican turtle eggs to the Padre Island National Seashore.