Nature

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles May Have an Uptick in Hatchlings for 2020

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Sea turtle nesting season has begun, and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (also known as Atlantic ridley sea turtles) are starting to do so on the Texas coast. South Padre Island has long been a hotspot for the species this time of year, and soon their hatchlings will start making their way back to the ocean. Thanks to a number of conservation efforts that have stepped up in recent years, their numbers were on the rise, up through 2010. Following that, they appeared to drop off, and scientists have been working to pinpoint the reason or causes throughout this past decade. However, this year’s first nest was found approximately 10 days earlier than last year’s, leading them to believe the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles could be on the rebound!

Known as the rarest species among sea turtles, the Kemp’s ridley are critically endangered, meaning they’re on the brink of extinction. Their habitat consists of warm waters, such as the western parts of the Atlantic Ocean and much of the Gulf of Mexico. The latter locale is the reason that the state of Texas has been home to more of their nests than any other American location. This is also why continued conservation and protection efforts in the Lone Star State have been critical. Educating the public has become an integral component of that, as well as sea turtle releases held annually in the months of June through August.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles May Have an Uptick in Hatchlings for 2020

Photo: envato elements

Nests that are left on beaches tend to have a low survival rate. Subsequently, those that are found are relocated to protected areas in order that they may be monitored until they hatch. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtles take approximately one-to-four days to break through their shells and become ready for full release. As a part of the public education process, their hatchling releases are generally scheduled at a time when a number of nests are ready to hatch. This raises the prospects of visitors to the area being able to watch it live.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles May Have an Uptick in Hatchlings for 2020

Photo: envato elements

The National Park Service, in conjunction with Padre Island National Seashore, has been involved in the process of protection and release for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles since the 1970s. Their releases will generally take place at 6:45 a.m., in front of the Visitor Center located on Malaquite Beach. This year, due to the COVID-19 health measures, Padre Island National Seashore (located on North Padre Island) is opening for day use only, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., effect March 26, 2020. Therefore, visitors won’t need to miss an opportunity to view a scheduled release! Those who are lucky enough to attend one are asked not to touch the hatchlings, since this could interfere with the imprinting process that brings them back to the same beach they hatched at year after year. Not disrupting this pattern allows for the species to grow and continue.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles May Have an Uptick in Hatchlings for 2020

Photo: envato elements

If you’re walking along a Texas beach in the near future and spot a sea turtle that is stranded, you’re asked to call 1-866-TURTLES or to waive down a turtle patroller. Those interested in learning more about the care and conservation of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, or various other types of sea turtles in general, can do so by visiting the National Park Service website for Padre Island at the link available here, or their Facebook page at the link provided here.