By TERESA SHUMAKER
Special to the PRESS
The first Kemp’s ridley nest of the Texas season was discovered Friday, April 24, around 9:45 a.m. One hundred eggs were laid, and to make it even more exciting, the sea turtle mama had an I.D. tag. Thanks to the tag, we now know that she has nested on SPI before, in 2009 and again in 2011.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles usually nest every other year, which means that this sea turtle has been a healthy, consistent breeder for at least three cycles. More breeding sea turtles like her are needed to bring the populations back to restored numbers.
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the most endangered of the eight species of sea turtle, and the smallest. Majority of the Kemp’s ridley population nests in Tamaulipas, Mexico and a small population (about one percent) nests on the Texas coast.
In 1947, Andres Herrera captured footage of 40,000 Kemp’s ridleys nesting on a Mexican beach at one time. It was rare footage of an “arribada,” which is “arrival” in Spanish.
Kemp’s ridleys are unique amongst sea turtles; they are the only ones who nest during the day. Scientists theorize the reason behind this mass day nesting is the more turtles that nest at one time, the lower the odds that any one nest will be predated – safety in numbers.
Unfortunately, this made them easy for humans to harvest and by the 1980s the population had dwindled down to only a few hundred.
Now, with years of hard work by STI, TPWD, the National Park Service, Gladys Porter Zoo, and Conam within Mexico, arribadas have recovered to 3,000 to 5,000 nesting in a single day.
However, there is still a long way to go until they fully recover.
A mama ridley was spotted earlier that morning farther south on the island, and abandoned her nesting attempt. It is possible that it was the same turtle. Hopefully, it was and the second spot she chose worked well. Sometimes, a mama sea turtle will abandon her chosen nest site if she feels threatened or that the location is unsafe. If she cannot find a safe place to lay her nest, the eggs will be lost. Which is why it is important that we give these sea turtles their space so they feel comfortable enough to come up and lay their nest. If you are out enjoying the beaches on the island or at Boca Chica and you see a sea turtle on the sand, please call us immediately at 956-761-4511.
Jeff George, Executive Director of Sea Turtle, Inc., estimates that this nest will be hatching around June 15.
Of course, only the hatchlings know when they are ready to go. With hatchling releases, we rarely know more than a few hours in advance that a release will happen. But then, that’s part of the excitement, waiting on pins and needles for the big day, then launching into action to protect them as they make their journey to the ocean!
When the nests get close to hatching, we post updates to our Facebook and Twitter accounts and send emails to ourmembers. To learn more about the sea turtles, please visit us on the island or online at www.seaturtleinc.org.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife
Click below to see how TPWD is aiding in Kemp’s ridley sea turtle conservation.
Want the whole story? Pick up a copy of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.