American Oceans

What is the Rarest Type of Sea Turtle?

The Kemp’s Ridley is the most endangered species of sea turtle, and in 1970 was listed in the United States under the Endangered Species Act as endangered. 

The only major breeding site for the Kemp’s Ridley is a small section of beach at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.

They mate in mass synchronized nestings known as arribadas. This translates to ‘arrival’ in Spanish. The arribada occurs regularly between April and June. 

In 1942, a Mexican architect caught an estimated 42,000 Ridleys nesting at Rancho Nuevo in one day on camera. In 1995, only 1,429 Ridley nests were laid at Rancho Nuevo.

However, things do seem to be improving for the Kemp’s Ridley as over 7,100 nests were recorded at Rancho Nuevo in 2004.

This increase can be explained by both the full protection of nesting females and their nests, and how shrimp trawls in both the U.S. and Mexico are required to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce the number of turtles getting caught in fishing nets. 

The name Kemp’s Ridley comes from Richard Moore Kemp who was the first to send a specimen to Samuel Garman at Harvard, but the origins of ‘ridley’ are unknown. 

Kemp’s Ridley has also been referred to as a ‘heartbreak turtle.’

In her book The Great Ridley Rescue, Pamela Phillps claims the name was coined by fishermen who witnessed the turtles dying after being turned on their backs. The fishermen believe the turtles had died of a broken heart. 

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