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18 Apr 2018
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Sanibel WildlifeNews

Sea Turtle Season Has Begun!

On Monday we had our first sea turtle nest of the 2018 season!

For only the 3rd time in the history of the SCCF Sea Turtle Program, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nested on Sanibel Island! The Kemp's ridley is one of the smallest and the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world.

The SCCF is beyond thrilled that their first nest of the season was laid by a rare Kemp's ridley!

Here are some fact about the Kemp ridley sea turtle:

  • Kemp's ridleys typically nest in Southern Texas and Mexico, and nests laid by Kemp's are considered rare in Florida. I believe last year there were fewer than 20 nests laid by Kemp's ridleys in the entire state. That's why it's so exciting that one chose to lay her eggs here on Sanibel!! 
  • This is the only species that nests primarily during the day. They also nest in mass similar to their relative the olive ridley (also known as an arribada). However, a percentage of the total population are solitary nesters that emerge on other nearby beaches or on arribada beaches on nights other than the arribadas. 
  • They possess a triangular shaped heads with hooked beaks and strong jaws. They inhabit nearshore habitats where they forage for their favorite prey, crabs. They also eat fish, jellies, shrimp, and a variety of molluscs. 
  • They are considered Critically Endangered around the world by the IUCN Red List and listed as Endangered in the US.
  • Kemp’s ridleys reach sexual maturity between 10-15 years of age which is significantly younger than most of the other species.
  • Their scientific name is Lepidochelys kempii.
  • In 1947 an arribada of more than 40,000 Kemp’s ridleys was filmed at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. In the mid-1980’s a low of around 700 nests were documented on these same beaches. Since then, the population appears to be recovering thanks to the protection of nesting beaches and the use of Turtle Excluder Devices on commercial trawlers.
  • They are named after Richard Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, Florida, who helped discover the species.

Last year SCCF's Sea Turtle Program had a total of 684 nests on Sanibel - 650 loggerhead nests and 34 green nests - and 189 nests on Captiva. Both the loggerhead and the green nest counts for Sanibel surpassed previous records. 2017 was the fourth year in a row that Sanibel has broken historic nesting records, so we are hopeful that conservation efforts from the past 20-30 years are starting to pay off and sea turtle nest counts will continue to rise.

More information on SCCF's Sea Turtle Program can be found on their website at