PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE — The species dates back four-million-years and today it's telling us what it needs to survive after one of the worst oil spills in history.
The turtle’s primary nesting beaches are in Mexico, but in the U.S., Texas hosts more nesting Ridleys than any other state, providing a unique opportunity for oil spill assessment.
Donna Shaver is the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Division Chief at Padre Island National Seashore. “We are doing this work to gather information to aid with our natural resource damage assessment study which is looking at potential injury to nesting Kemp’s Ridleys as well as their offspring from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill," she says. "It’s important to know where these turtles go in between nesting season so we know what waters are very important for protection of these animals.”
The Kemp’s Ridley mainly nest near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, but their full nesting and feeding range includes most of the Gulf of Mexico, including the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“It is still an endangered species greatly depleted compared to former numbers," Shaver says, "and if we are going to recover this species, we need to be able to protect them in the area where they spend most of their lives.”
You can follow the movements of satellite-tagged turtles at seaturtle.org.
Editor's note: The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department produces these multi-media reports as an educational resource.