What’s going on? In the last two months three Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the rarest turtles on Earth, have been found on UK beaches, thousands of miles from their natural habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. What were they doing so far away from home?
Biologists say there are only around 1,000 nesting female Kemp’s ridley sea turtles left in the world.
It is not as if somebody with a giant aquarium in the UK let them loose. Two of them were found in the north of England, while the third was discovered several hundred miles away by Ben Read on the Devon coast, right in the south of the country. Had somebody let them loose, they would have been found nearer each other.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles should not turn up on British beaches, several thousand miles from their natural habitat. (Image: Wikimedia)
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles can, on very rare occasions, be seen further up the US coast, sometimes even as far as New Jersey, but never on the other side of the Atlantic, and three of them within 8 weeks!?
The latest one was found in Devon
Mr. Read was walking down Green Cliff beach, near Abbotsham in Devon, 10 miles from home when he came across a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. He called a friend who is a marine biology student, and suspected he had discovered a rare, tropical specimen.
Mr. Read took the animal’s carcass (it was dead) home and place it in his freezer, thinking that biologists might want to examine it when they came.
According to Mr. Read:
“The marine biologist knew straight away, as soon as I described the markings, that it could be a Kemp’s ridley. He said that the turtles originate from Mexico, but are extremely rare and are now critically endangered.”
Two other Kemp’s ridley sea turtles found in the north of England
In December, two other Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were found washed up on beaches. One on Cumbria’s Walney Island and the other near Formby in Merseyside. These two were alive when found, but have since died.
Unfortunately, this turtle refused food and could not be saved. (Photo: The Lake District Coast Aquarium)
The turtle found in Merseyside died not long after being discovered, while the other one survived for the while at the Lake District Coast Aquarium at Mayport. Unfortunately, it kept refusing food and died.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle – endangered
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), also called the Atlantic ridley sea turtle, is the rarest sea turtle on Earth.
In the 20th century their numbers plummeted because of hunting. Today, their survival is being undermined by loss of habitat, entanglement in shrimping nets, and pollution.
Several protection groups today encourage fishermen to utilize turtle excluder devices, which help the turtles escape from the net.
In the 1960s, the Mexican Government declared the turtle a protected species. The US followed suit in 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act.
Encouragingly, biologists have been reporting recently that the number of turtle nest sightings along the Texan coast has increased.
South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program
The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program marks the 151st sea turtle to be released today by the Aquarium’s cornerstone conservation program.
Six sea turtles, including one green sea turtle and five Kemp’s ridleys will be released back into the sea at Cape Canaveral National Seashore in Florida.
“The turtles were all part of a massive cold-stun event along the New England coast in November. They were flown aboard a private flight to Charleston generously donated by Will and Margie Dorminy, Charleston locals and owners of Southern Eagle Distributing.”