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Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Animal's Behavior

Historically, Kemp's Ridley turtles have nested in great numbers at Ranch Nuevo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, although there are a few minor nesting sites in Texas. Kemp's take between 7 and 15 years to reach sexual maturity. Immature Kemp's are considered "pelagic," or open-ocean swimmers, and are at the mercy of Gulf currents until they become adults, at which time the turtles will move inshore towards coasts and their favorite food, clams and shrimp. Adult turtles have few natural predators care of their tough shell and claws on their front and rear flippers, although sharks and killer whales have occasionally been seen hunting Kemp's. Humans are by far the most deadly of the Kemp's predators.

Eating Habits

Kemp's Ridleys primarily eat crab and shrimp, but will occasionally eat sargassum seaweed or jellyfish.


The Kemp's Ridley is found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the northern half of the Atlantic ocean, as far as Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. All Kemp's Ridleys are considered part of a "single stock," or the same species, despite their large range.

Conservation Efforts

The major threats to the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle are habitat loss, pollution and entanglement in shrimping nets. Mexico realized the importance of the Rancho Nuevo beaches early on, and in 1966 critical nesting and hatching ground was declared a National Reserve. In addition, the usage of Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs), a trap door built into nets where turtles can escape entanglement by shrimp trawlers became mandatory in the United States in 1989.

Animal Facts

  • In 1947, a film made in Rancho Nuevo Mexico showed 40,000 turtles nesting in one day. In 2006, only around 4,000 Kemp's were seen nesting.
  • The fine for killing a Kemp's ridley turtle (or any endangered turtle) numbers in the tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Kemp's Ridleys, along with their sister species, the Olive Ridley, nest in "arribadas," or mass exoduses to their nesting gounds where as much as 95% of the entire population will lay eggs at once.
  • Consuming turtle eggs was long believed to enhance male virility, and egg collection on some beaches is still an issue.

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Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Lepidochelys kempii


Animalia, Chordata, Reptilia, Testudines, Cheloniidae, Lepidochelys, kempii


Considered the smallest marine turtle, weighing an average of 100 pounds with a carapace measuring between 24 to 28 inches


Olive/grey, with a cream-colored underside


Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the most endangered of all sea turtle species.


Estimated 50 years

Conservation Status


Where to See

In the Wild

Mailing address: Audubon Nature Institute 6500 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 70118
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