Saving the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle – Texas Parks and Wildlife [Official]
Articles Blog

Saving the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle – Texas Parks and Wildlife [Official]

January 6, 2020

[ocean waves]
[music] I love working and living
around the ocean. The sound of the surf and looking
out into the ocean, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I am Dr. Donna Shaver and I lead the
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery project here at Padre Island National Seashore. Kemp’s Ridley is an endangered species that was almost obliterated within
just a blink of an eye. And it became endangered
because of human activities. And it’s going to take human activities to help conserve that animal and to keep it on this planet
for the future. There’s still a long way to go
to recover the population of the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. [music] There was a film that was
made in 1947 that showed an estimated 40,000
Kemp’s Ridleys nesting at Rancho Nuevo on just one day. By the time that biologists went
to the nesting beach to try to investigate, the number of Kemp’s Ridleys nesting
had already plummeted due to the loss of eggs, due to intentional taking of the eggs
from the nesting beach as well as loss of the juveniles and
adults due to fisheries operations. The Kemp’s Ridley population
continued to decline to a low of only 702 nests
worldwide for 1985. A project was started as a
safeguard against extinction so if a political or environmental
catastrophe occurred at Rancho Nuevo there’d be a safe area in the U.S.
where Kemp’s Ridleys could nest and be protected. From 1978 to 1988, 22,507 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle eggs were
brought to Padre Island National Seashore for incubation in an attempt to establish
a secondary nesting colony because Kemp’s Ridley is a
native nester to south Texas. What we tried to do was to
imprint the turtles to Padre Island Island National Seashore. The hatchlings were released on the beach,
allowed to crawl into the surf where they were recaptured
using aquarium dip nets. Then the hatchlings were sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service
Laboratory in Galveston, TX where they were raised for
approximately 9 to 11 months. And that allowed the turtles to
grow to a size large enough so they could be tagged
for future recognition and also to be able to avoid most
predators when they were released. [camera operator] That’s a big
turtle! It’s about 3 feet long! [Donna] And it took a full
10 years before we found our first confirmed
returnee from that project. And it was an extremely happy day. We knew that these turtles
were from the project because they had on them living tags. A living tag is like a skin graft where there was a piece of the
bottom shell taken out, a piece of the top shell, and that small plug from the bottom
shell was glued into the surrounding shell surface
on the top, providing a permanent lite
identification marker on the darker background
of the top shell. [camera operator] Okay, there’s the egg
cavity with the eggs. [observor] She said there’s about 100. [Donna] This is very significant for us
in that we’ve got the first documented evidence of a sea turtle
of any species that’s been experimentally imprinted
to a particular area to return to that area to nest. [music] [Linda Reed]
Oh, I love this job. We’re looking for sea turtle
tracks primarily. We’re looking for those nesting turtles. We go for their eggs and we bring them into the
hatchings facility. We got 6 nests my first year and now to get a day when we get
19 in one day is just… it’s so exciting I can’t tell you
how much it means. It’s nice to know that we’ll be able
to pass through this life and leave the earth a little bit
better place than it was when we got here. This is the track left in the sand
by the nesting female. This is what we’re looking for
when we’re patrolling. As you can see, it’s about a
foot 1/2 to 2 feet wide and there’s scuff marks from the flippers
and little divots in the sand that are made from the nails on the
flippers as the turtle crawls up the beach or back down into the water. [music] Nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are only
on the beach for about 45 minutes. She lays the eggs. They come out in
1 or 2 or 3 at a time. They provide no maternal care for their
eggs and don’t return to the nest site. When the turtle is done she will cover that nest cavity
and she returns to the sea. It’s very important that you
watch carefully for nesting Kemp’s Ridley turtles. They are very slow and they can’t move to avoid
an approaching vehicle. This is a species that’s been around
for 4 million years. I feel like we’ve got an obligation to
try to bring this species back so that it can be enjoyed by
future generations. [wind] We work so hard to find Kemp’s Ridley
nests on the Texas coast. Sometimes, despite hours of
digging and of probing, we’re unable to find the nests and
protect those eggs. So, when possible, we call in
the expert sniffer, [music]
my cairn terrier Ridley, who we’ve trained to aid
with nest detection. Find the nest, Ridley! When we bring Ridley to a site, he aggressively sniffs on the beach trying to find where that
nest is located and he really enjoys doing this. And the little dog, we could have spent 5 hours
probing and digging, bring him in and within a
matter of just minutes he locates the nest. Oh, good boy, Ridley! You found it.
You found it! Oh, good boy. The eggs are collected from all of the
nests that we find on the Texas coast and brought in for protected incubation. The incubation temperature determines whether the turtles will be
male or female. Warmer temperatures produce females,
cooler temperatures, males. We try to hatch mostly females so that they’ll have a better chance
of reproduction in the wild. [music] During the day of the release, the turtles are immediately
brought down to the beach and they’re placed on the beach and
allowed to enter the surf and go free. [music] These animals are pretty primitive animals and basically are working on
instinct right now. Smelling the salt air, hearing
the waves, probably, and just making a mad dash
towards the water to try to get in there
as quickly as they can. They’re free and they’re going
to be on this journey that’s going to last their whole lifetime. After many years of hard work
by many people both in Mexico and the United States, the Kemp’s Ridley population
is increasing. For the future, we’re going to have
to continue our very hard work. These is an endangered species
success story in the making.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I love how Texas Parks n Wildlife takes all the credit for saving this majestic animal. There is no mention of my grandfather's brother and sister in law, Dearl and Ethel Adams. He began bringing eggs from Rancho Nuevo in 1966 and took them to S. Padre Island to be hatched and released there.

  2. He saw the video taken in 1947 and that started his journey and struggle, doing the legwork, to get the mexican and US governments involved. They didn't get involved until 10 years later when they saw it was working. "Thanks for getting it started. We'll take it from here."

  3. This video is excellent, thank you the the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept., Dr. Shaver, Ridley and the biologists working with the team for their extraordinary efforts on our behalf!

  4. And why does that matter? Who cares who gets what credit, seems like a pretty petty thing to complain about.

  5. This is amazing! I just volunteer at a turtle hospital one day a week and I am absolutely exhausted after. It takes a lot of work and I deeply appreciate all you guys do!

  6. Saving Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles is my first love, after my husband. They are so cute and the most endangered sea turtle in the world.

  7. I think this is so cool I know personally the grandson of Andrea Herrera and to hear him tell the story of how his Grandfather just happened to have a video camera and wasn't expect all this to happen and just filmed it. To hear the story is truly amazing. I was given a little sea turtle that Andrea grandson gave to me and I hold it very dear and close to my heart given by the zoo I believe in texas that they honor the Herrera family in Andrea's honor of capturing this amazing video.

  8. great efforts, thank you. I also remember camping long visits on padre, for weeks, lots of jelly fish, sand crabs at night, now all gone mostly… sometimes i think the human species is just so dumb,… thank you texas parks & wildlife…

  9. What about the natural predators who depend on a steady diet of turtle eggs and young? How will they survive when the rangers take their food away? What if a botanist took all the eucalyptus trees away to save them and the koala bears all died? Every time we change one thing in nature, something else suffers. It's happened time and time again by well meaning yet short sighted people who don't look at the big picture, like how they introduced cane toads to australia.

  10. Very interesting video. 🐢 I wonder what the current number of Kemp’s Ridley Turtles is. I first saw some at Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas.

  11. These efforts are really working. Kemp's Ridleys are now very common in the bays, channels, and surf around Port Aransas, TX.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *