Endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle found in Nova Scotia

A Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle was found alive in Morden, NS (at the shore of the Bay of Fundy) on September 30, 2009. The turtle received veterinary care, but unfortunately died October 2nd and was submitted to the CCWHC and examined by Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust.

Although the necropsy results are not finalized; the preliminary cause of death is cold-shock.

“The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is the smallest and rarest species of sea turtle, with only 2,000-3,000 adult females remaining.” (Innis et al. JWD 45:594-610,2009, citing Marquez-M et al. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4:761-766, 2005). Kemp’s Ridley’s reach maturity at 2 feet long and an average of 45 kg (100 lb). Their carapace (top shell) can measure 60-70 cm (24-28 inches) in length. The almost circular carapace is greyish green while the plastron (bottom shell) is pale yellow to cream.

This sea turtle generally prefers warm waters but is known to inhabit the waters as far north as New Jersey. It is found in the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and Louisiana. Its range includes the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The nesting season is between April to August, though some nest as late as July or August. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles nest mostly in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, but they sometimes nest on Padre Island in the U.S. state of Texas. The adult sea turtles mate offshore and then the females land in groups on the beaches in what is commonly called an arribada or mass nesting.

In the past their numbers were severely depleted through hunting, but today major threats include loss of habitat, pollution, and entanglement in fishing (shrimping) nets. And though their nesting grounds are protected and many commercial fishing fleets now use turtle excluder devices in their nets, its survival truly hangs in the balance.

By: Fiep de Bie, October 9, 2009

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