All the recent news about Kemp’s Ridley turtles has been about the potential devastation they face due to the Gulf oil disaster. The reason there is so much concern for them, is because they are the rarest sea turtles. Just today, however, there was some very good news reported about the species.
Last fall three young Kemp’s Ridley turtles were found in a distressed state on the East Coast. When they were found they had been stunned by cold water, which causes them to get sick because their immune systems don’t function when they get too cold. Young Kemp’s Ridleys are prone to hypothermia because of their small size. The distressed turtles that were found only weighed about five pounds, and adults can weigh 100 pounds.
The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program, which is mainly operated by volunteers, worked for months with the sick turtles helping them double their weight and regain their health. They were released June 19, when Chesapeake Bay water is in the mid 70s, which is warm enough
for them to function in healthily. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles visit the Bay during summer and eat local species just as jellyfish and mussels. These particular three are the 84th, 85th, and 86th wild turtles the National Aquarium rescue program has rehabilitated and released. You can actually track one of the turtle’s movements online with Google Maps. According to the online tracker, Marshall the turtle traveled more than 84 miles from June 19-28.
Video of the Turtle Release
The three released turtles will face shrimp trawling, boat collisions, getting stuck in crab traps, ingesting fishing line, and now oiled water, as they try to survive and reproduce. A very large number of Kemp’s Ridley turtles swim to Mexico to reproduce, “Kemp’s ridleys display one of the most unique synchronized nesting habits in the natural world.” Some also lay eggs on Padre Island in Texas. Padre Island National Seashore has 70 miles of protected coastline.
If you want to volunteer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore visit their volunteer opportunity page to find out more.
Video of the Turtle Rehabilitation
Slideshow of the Release
Image Credit: National Park Service