Kemp’s ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have the most romantic and the saddest story of all the sea turtles. For many years the location of their nesting sites was a mystery and it was suspected that they were not a true species but rather a hybrid of other turtles. However in the late 1940s they were filmed nesting in vast numbers at Rancho Nuevo, a remote beach in Mexico. Then it was estimated there were 40,000 nesting females. By the 1980s there were only 300. The population was being devastated through poaching of eggs and getting caught in shrimp trawlers. The situation became so bad that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ranked them as one of ‘the twelve most endangered species’ in the world. Today, thanks to a concerted conservation effort between the Mexican and USA Governments the Kemp’s ridley population is on the rise. However they are still listed as Critically Endangered, with around 2500 females nesting in 2003. There is still a long way to go before they are safe.