Lepidochelys kempi

Range & Status

Close to extinction in the 1980s when only a few hundred females were observed nesting, this is the rarest of all marine turtles. They are mostly limited to the Gulf of Mexico where the only nesting site is found. The females of this species are migratory, swimming enormous distances between feeding grounds and the nesting beach. Males appear to be non-migratory. Feeding migrations are believed to be stimulated by the movement of warmer water (WWF, 2008).

Juvenile Kemp' s Ridley Turtles range between tropical and temperate coastal areas of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and occasionally occur in British waters (Marine Conservation Society, UK, 2008d). The population was decimated by egg harvesting, hunting of nesting females and by the accidental drowning of thousands of turtles in shrimp trawl nets in the Gulf of Mexico. Turtle Excluding Devices fitted to shrimp nets can help prevent bycatch. These allow only shrimp-sized objects to enter the net. There has been an international drive to introduce these devices worldwide and shrimp trawlers operating in United States waters must now be fitted with them (United Nations Environment Programme, 2008). The population is slowly recovering and approximately 10,000 nests are now laid each year (Marine Conservation Society, UK, 2008d).

Strandings & Sightings

The decline of the Kemp' s Ridley Turtle is reflected in the sparseness of sightings and strandings on Cornish shores. There have been only eight reports between 1913 (the first European record) and 1988. Seven of these were between 1913 and 1949, with the eighth in 1969. More recent strandings reports comprise: 2000 (3), 2005 (1).

Conservation

Listed as Critically Endangered (Marine Turtle Specialist Group 1996. Lepidochelys kempii . In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 14 March 2008).