Introduction To Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Facts
The Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtle is the world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle. Its binomial name is Lepidochelys kempii and one of the only two living species of the genus named Lepidochelys. A fisherman named Richard M. Kemp first described this species in Florida. To honor Mr. Kemp this turtle was named after his name.
This beautiful small creature usually lives in warm shallow water. They are found in the Gulf of Mexico, coast of Florida and up to the Atlantic Ocean. A little amount of them have been recorded to be found in Morocco coast, South Carolina, Texas and North Carolina.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Facts
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles are small in size. They become only 2-3 feet long when attaining maturity. They can weigh up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms). Their carapace is usually of greenish gray color and the bottom shell is of cream to pale yellowish color. The carapace is almost circular in shape. They have one claw in each of the front flippers and one or two claws in the back flippers.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is carnivorous in food habit. They live mainly on crabs, crustaceans, jellyfish, clams, mollusks, mussels and other fishes. Sometimes they also eat seaweeds like Sargassum.
This critically endangered species become sexually mature between the ages 7 to 15 years. But some specialists say that they do not get maturity until the age of 35 years. They usually nest in between May and August. Large groups of turtles arrive at the nesting spot during the nesting period. These huge groups are called arribadas, a Spanish word which means ‘arrival’ in English. Researchers still do not know the factors that trigger these huge groups but believe that lunar cycles, offshore winds and pheromones released by females are the key factors for this nesting.
95% of the Kemp’s turtles nest at Mexico and other known sites for nesting are South Carolina and Texas. Female turtles nest annually and lay 2-3 clutches of eggs every season. Each clutches contains almost 100 soft eggs. Eggs of Kemp’s turtle have leathery shell and look like ping pong balls. These eggs take about 60 days to incubate. Incubation of eggs depends on temperature. Lower temperature produces male turtles and higher temperature tends to produce females.
After incubation, young turtles come out of their eggs. These juveniles are only 1-2 inches in length. They drift in the currents of Mexico seashore for about two years. At 12 years they get matured. Average lifespan of Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtles is 50 years or more.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtles have been listed as Critically Endangered species by IUCN and CITE. They are on the brink of extinction. Pollution, losing habitat and being hunted by human beings are the major threats they are facing. Extensive harvest of adult turtles and eggs is another reason behind their decline. Today only 1000 females have been left in the wild.
Measures to save Kemp’s Ridley Sea turtle were taken first by Mexico in ’60s and then by U.S government in ’70s. A bi-national agreement was signed in 1984 to protect this endangered species.