The most endangered sea turtle

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Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) Kemp's ridley is the most endangered of all sea turtles and was listed in the United States under the Endangered Species Act as endangered throughout its range in 1970.Its numbers precipitously declined after 1947, when over 40,000 nesting females were estimated in a single arribada.(Spanish for “arrival”).The only major breeding site of the Kemp’s ridley is on a small strip of beach at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.

The arribada of Kemp’s ridleys occurs at regular intervals between April and June. In 1942, a Mexican architect filmed an estimated 42,000 ridleys nesting at Rancho Nuevo in one day. During 1995, only 1,429 ridley nests were laid at Rancho Nuevo. Recent good news is that the nesting at Rancho Nuevo seems to be increasing with over 7,100 nests recorded in 2004. The increase can be attributed to two primary factors: full protection of nesting females and their nests in Mexico, and the requirement to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in shrimp trawls both in the U.S. and Mexican waters.

Each fall, typically by late October, Kemp’s ridleys and other sea turtles start washing up on the 50-mile-long shoreline along Cape Cod Bay between Sandy Neck and Provincetown. The turtles, almost all juveniles, are thought to follow warm summer currents north to Maine or beyond; then, as fall approaches, they head south before inadvertently swimming into the bay formed by the great crooked cape. As the water temperature drops, so does the cold blooded animal’s body temperature, until the turtle sinks into a deep torpor, too weak to find its way out of the bay. Turtles do occasionally wash up on other beaches along the East Coast, but only on Cape Cod are substantial numbers found every year.

About half of the turtles on the beach are already dead. The others, called cold-stunned turtles, will die of hypothermia if left on the sand.Human activities have  also tipped the scales against the survival of these ancient mariners. Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. They also face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. Climate change has an impact on turtle nesting sites. It alters sand temperatures, which then affects the hatchlings.

WWF is committed to stop the decline of sea turtles and work for the recovery of the species. We work to secure environments in which both turtles—and the people that depend upon them—can survive into the future.Do you want to save the turtles?