Name: Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles
Average Weight: 100 pounds
Average Size: 2 feet
Lifespan in the Wild: 50 years
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Population: 22,341 Mature Individuals as of January 2019 (According to IUCN)
General Information: This sea turtle gets it name from its discoverer, Richard Kemp who studied these turtles. It is thought that they are given the name "Ridley" because they exhibit very similar nesting behaviours to the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles.
These sea turtles favorite food is crabs, along with other shellfish. They have a strong and powerful jaw which allows them to crush and grind the crabs, mussels and clams. They enjoy feasting on jellyfish and sea urchins too, along with having a snack on sargassum and seaweed.
Nesting Behaviours & Reproduction:
Kemp's Ridley nest every 1 to 3 years which is more often than most species of sea turtles. Their nesting is known as arribadas which is Spanish for arrival, because they of the mass synchronised nesting that takes place. The females take over a huge portion of the beach, pulling themselves up and across the beach until they find a good spot to lay their eggs. They will nest 2 or 3 times a season, laying around 110 eggs in each of their nests. The eggs take around 55 days to incubate and once the hatchlings emerge they make their way back to the ocean.
Female Kemp's Ridley turtles reach sexual maturity at age around 10 to 12 years of age. They will travel hundreds of miles to reach their nesting beach, which is normally the beach that they hatched on.
Habitat & Range:
These sea turtles prefer shallow areas with sandy or muddy bottoms and are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico. The juveniles travel between the tropical and temperate coastal regions of the northwest Atlantic Ocean as well as up and down the east coast of the USA.
Threats To The Species:
As the most endangered species of sea turtle the Kemp's Ridley turtle faces a wide range of different threats.
Over Harvesting of Eggs & Hunting:
Their biggest threat has been humans harvesting their eggs, but thanks to conservation efforts their nesting beaches are protected and this threat is no longer of major concern. In the past humans have even been known to hunt the juvenile and adult Kemp's Ridley turtles for their meat and other products.
Bycatch & Fishing Gear:
This is an on going threat for these turtles, they are most commonly caught on fishing trawlers but also get tangled in gillnets, traps, pots and recreational fishing gear. Many commercial fishing fleets do now use turtle excluder devices to help protect sea turtles from their nets, so hopefully we will see some improvement in their population soon.
Plastic Pollution & Marine Debris:
Like other marine wildlife, sea turtles are at risk from the ever growing amount of plastic pollution in our oceans. They can mistake pieces of plastic, plastic bags and other debris for food and if they ingest them it can result in death. Not only this, but they can get entangled in discarded and lost fishing gear, also known as ghost gear, and this can result in them getting injured or drowning.