Desert Tortoise Conservation

Desert Tortoise Conservation and Species RecoveryThe Ivanpah Valley of California’s Mojave Desert, where Molycorp’s Mountain Pass facility is located, is one of the areas where the threatened desert tortoise can be found. While desert tortoises prefer a lower elevation than Mountain Pass’s 5,100 feet and are rarely found around the facility, Molycorp is taking substantial steps to not only protect the desert tortoise but to aid species recovery and re-population.

Molycorp has partnered with the National Park Service and Chevron to create a Desert Tortoise Head Start Facility in the area, and the facility is designed to shelter young desert tortoises and help recover the species.  Molycorp donated the land for this facility and will provide water and power for its operations. The work at the facility will also result in the development of new technology and data important for range‐wide efforts to recover the desert tortoise.

Below are some details about the facility and the collaborative conservation efforts:
  • Facility was complete in February 2011 and will commence operation this year
  • Soon to be operated by the National Park Service
  • Constructed by Chevron
  • Land (7 acres), power and water supplied by Molycorp
  • Located on Molycorp lands, immediately adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve near Nipton, CA
  • Facility consists of Research Station and a maximum of 5 separate pens, ranging in size from  10,000 ft2 to 22,500 ft2
  • Research station has LEED Silver certification
  • Research to be conducted by a group of scientists from Savannah River Ecology Lab and University of California-Davis
  • Research will provide critical information regarding tortoise hatchling and juvenile ecology, behavior, physiology, and survivorship
  • Desert Tortoise The facility will use Headstarting techniques:
    • Headstarting involves gathering a sample population of gravid desert tortoises just prior to egg-laying.
    • The sample population is placed into a caged enclosure and the females are allowed to deposit their eggs in a natural setting. Once their eggs are deposited, the females are returned to their original capture sites
    • The eggs are allowed to hatch in situ and hatchlings are allowed to grow at natural rates to a size considered to be safe from most predators (5 to 7 years).  The facility is specially designed to protect young tortoises.
    • Released tortoise will then be tracked following release
  • Headstarting will increase the size of desert tortoise populations in the vicinity of the facility
  • First phase will involve 60 hatchling tortoises, and the initial research is expected to last for at least 7 years
  • Efforts at the facility will result in the development of new technology and as well as providing new data important for range-wide efforts to recover the desert tortoise
  • Initial research is expected to last for at least 15 years to achieve reproductive age of the headstarted juvenile tortoises
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