Kia spent £76,000 on each tortoise to move them to a new home next door.
It seems Kia had quite the job to do before it was able to build its super-secret testing facility in the Mohave Desert in south-eastern California. The Korean manufacturer had to find a new home for 27 desert tortoises.
Part of the agreement with American authoroties involved tracking down, re-homing and looking after the protected species, a task that cost Kia close to £76,000 a pop. That’s a little over £2 million spent on clearing the 4,300-acre California Proving Ground.
Not only was the process expensive, the tortoises lived up to their slow-moving stereotype. It took five years to move them on, including multiple sweeps of the area to ensure none were left behind prior to construction.
Facility manager Matt Seare commented: “We had to buy them each homes on Long Beach. I’m joking of course, but it probably would have been cheaper.
“We had to purchase a separate piece of land adjacent to the property purely to re-home the tortoises. We had to sweep the site twice, combing the whole area, prior to building the track, to find them all. We found 26 immediately and then on the second sweep we found one more hiding.
“Two years later we had to sweep again just in case there were any too small to spot originally that had since grown bigger. It was quite a project.”
Kia enlisted the help of ten biologists to make sure the tortoises found their new home, which is surrounded by the world’s lowest security fence, comfortable. “We built a one foot fence around their new home – tortoises can’t jump so it didn’t need to be higher – and these days we don’t see them on the track,” Seare added.
Desert tortoises can live as long as 80 years, around 95 per cent of which is spent hiding in burrows and rock shelters to keep the heat at bay. Human activity is said to be the biggest contributing factor in their becoming an endangered species.