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Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles

Until recently, the endangered Kemp’s ridley turtle was on the brink of extinction in the 1960's. Thanks to strict protection laws which protected their nesting beaches in Mexico and reduced accidental capture in fishing gear, the species has begun a slow, but steady comeback from a previous low of only 200 nesting individuals in the 1980’s, to an estimated 7,000 - 9,000 individuals today.

These are the smallest of the seven sea turtle species, weighing between 75-100 pounds (35 - 45 kg) and measuring approximately 2 feet (.6 m) in length.

  • This is the only species that nests primarily during the day. They also nest in mass similar to their relative the olive ridley (also known as an arribada).

  • The Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles possess a triangular shaped heads with hooked beaks and strong jaws. They inhabit nearshore habitats where they forage for their favorite prey, crabs. They also eat fish, jellies, shrimp, and a variety of molluscs. 

  • They are considered Critically Endangered around the world by the IUCN Red List and listed as Endangered in the US.

  • Kemp’s ridleys reach sexual maturity between 10-15 years of age which is significantly younger than most of the other species.

  • Their scientific name is Lepidochelys kempii.

  • In 1947 an arribada of more than 40,000 Kemp’s ridleys was filmed at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. In the mid-1980’s a low of around 700 nests were documented on these same beaches. Since then, the population appears to be recovering thanks to the protection of nesting beaches and the use of Turtle Excluder Devices on commercial trawlers.

  • They are named after Richard Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, Florida, who helped discover the species.