Kemp’s ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

Kemp's ridley turtle
A Kemp's ridley turtle in Texas, USA. (Photo: Thane Wibbels)

Status: Critically Endangered (A1ab)

Basic Info: The Kemp’s ridley is the smallest of the sea turtles and has an extremely restricted range, nesting only along the Caribbean shores of northern Mexico and in Texas, U.S.A. Fifty years ago, the Kemp’s ridley was near extinction. Although this species now shows signs of recovery, fishing nets and coastal development continue to threaten the species, and much work remains to be done before it can be considered safe.

Distribution: Most restricted geographic range of all sea turtle species. Only nesting areas in Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and in Texas, U.S. Non-nesting range extends between the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Adults: Length 60-70 cm; mass up to 60 kg
Hatchlings: Length approximately 25 mm; mass 15 to 20 g


For all life stages, mostly benthic invertebrates (crabs, other crustaceans, and mollusks) and some jellies

* Reproduce every 1-3 years
* Lay 1-3 clutches of eggs per season
* Lay 90-130 eggs per clutch
* Ping-pong ball size eggs weigh approximately 30 grams each
* Incubation period is approximately 60 days long
* Takes 10-15 years to reach sexual maturity

* Along with olive ridleys, Kemp’s ridleys are the only sea turtles species to exhibit synchronous mass nesting, termed arribadas.
* During the arribadas, the Spanish word for ‘arrivals,’ tens of thousands of female turtles nest during the same 3-7 day period once a month.
* Along with olive ridleys, and, to a lesser extent, flatbacks, Kemp’s ridleys are the only sea turtle species to commonly nest during the day
* An incredible bi-national effort has been made to save Kemp’s ridleys from extinction by translocating eggs from beaches in Mexico to beaches in Texas, and by ‘head-starting’ juvenile Kemp’s ridleys, whereby hatchling turtles are grown in captivity to larger sizes before being released in an attempt to mitigate predation effects

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