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All About the Kemp's Ridley

July 6, 2010 | Tag(s): Audubon Aquarium, Kemp's Ridley, sea turtle

I thought all my readers might be interested in knowing some information about the #1 most critically endangered sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley, that we care for at Audubon Nature Institute.

Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempi)
Average life span in the wild:
Unknown but estimated to be 80 years
2 ft
100 lbs
Protection status:
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle, and with a worldwide female nesting population roughly estimated at around 3,000 individuals, its survival truly hangs in the balance. Their decline was once attributed primarily to the over-harvesting of their eggs during the last century.
They are found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, but also as far north as Nova Scotia. The major habitat for the Kemp’s is the near shore and inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, primarily Louisiana waters.
Kemp’s Ridleys are among the smallest sea turtles, reaching only about 2 feet in shell length and weighing up to 100 pounds. As adults, their upper shell, or carapace, is a greenish-grey color, and their bellies are off-white to yellowish. As hatchlings and juveniles, their carapace is very dark black.
The Kemp’s Ridley has received protection from Mexico since 1960 and was listed as an endangered species in 1970 under United States law.
While most other species of sea turtles nest on beaches all over the world, majority of the Kemp’s Ridleys nest on only one beach in the world, Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.
The numbers of the Kemp’s population have declined since 1947, when over 40,000 nesting females were estimated in a single arribada. The nesting population produced a low of 702 nests in 1985; however, since the mid-1980's, the number of nests laid in a season has been increasing primarily due to nest protection efforts and implementation of regulations requiring the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in commercial fishing trawls. During the 1999 and 2000 nesting seasons, more than3,600 nests and 6,000 nests, respectively, were deposited on the Mexico nesting beaches.
Interesting facts about the Kemp’s Ridley:
~ The Kemp’s Ridley was named for Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman interested in natural history who submitted the type specimen from Florida
~ They feed mainly on crabs
~Nesting information: 40,000 females nesting in 1947, estimated 5,000 in 1968, and in years 1978-1991, nesting rarely reached 200 females
~The Kemp’s Ridley are the only sea turtles that nest during the daylight
~The clutch size per nest is 110 eggs
~Adult Kemp’s shells are as round as they are wide
~Hatchlings measure 4-5 cm in length
~Nesting season for the Kemp’s Ridley is from April through June, at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico; almost no nesting takes place at any other beach
~Today, the largest single source of Kemp’s mortalities is drowning in shrimp nets
What will tomorrow hold? We never know but we are ready for anything and everything. Until then:
"For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."~Baba Dioum

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