Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

If you’re a fan of sea turtles then chances are you’re already familiar with the Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtle which is hands down the smallest of them all although it’s also the most endangered. When it comes to their history in general, although they’ve been around for longer than humans they were first fully described by a fisherman called Richard M. Kemp which is where they got their name from – in his honor.

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Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nesting on the beach

 

Kemp’s Ridley turtles prefer to stay around the tropical and subtropical areas/seas and the reason why is because they need to stay in warm waters to maintain temperature. They’re commonly found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and areas around Florida and the Caribbean. People have reported seeing them even as far out as Morocco.

These turtles are smaller than the majority of their counterparts and they can barely be a few feet long when they’re fully mature. The heaviest recorded Kemp’s Ridley turtle used to weight around 540 kilograms. What’s most noticeable about their carapace is that it’s a mixture between green and grey color and it’s a bit circular. They also have a few claws spread throughout different areas of their body.

What’s interesting about this turtle is that unlike others it actually prefers to eat a number of foods and can eat everything ranging from smaller animals to plants. For instance, crabs and jellyfish are commonly eaten by this turtle and they also prefer to eat seaweeds.

Although at a certain point there used to be a lot of these turtles and they could easily be found throughout different parts of the Atlantic, this certainly isn’t the case today because they’re already on the list of endangered species.

They become fully sexually mature and start reproducing only a couple of years after they’re born whilst females will go off in large groups during the nesting period. This is a very interesting subject for scientists because it’s still uncertain exactly why a number of turtles will go off for nesting at the exact same time.

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Kemps Ridley turtle hatchling

Though the species is dispersed throughout the Atlantic Ocean the Gulf of Mexico, the majority of its nesting activity takes place in Mexico and a typical female Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle might lay up to a few clutches per season (200-300 eggs). Most people find their eggs similar to what a ping pong ball looks like and it only takes around 2 months for the incubation process. This is mainly determined by the local temperature because if it’s cold male turtles tend to come out whilst it’s the opposite with warm environments.

The small turtles quickly come out of their shell and at that time they’re extremely vulnerable as they’re only an inch or two long. They’ll usually spend a few years among the shoreline and they’re fully mature after 10-13 years. The average turtle has a life expectancy of up to half a century.

The IUCN has already taken note of the rapid decline of the Kemp’s Ridley turtle and it’s currently labeled as critically endangered meaning that they’re likely to become extinct within the current decade. They’re not only being hunted by human beings for trade but they’re also severely affected by environmental issues and people even harvest their eggs – thus only a bit more than a thousand are alive currently.

Even though the US has already made agreements with the Mexican government to save this species a few decades ago, it doesn’t seem to change the fact that they’re slowly in decline.

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