World’s rarest turtle washes up on a Devon beach

Kemp's ridley

Photo credit: Wildlife Trust

One of the most critically endangered turtles in the world, the Kemp’s ridley turtle, has been found on Green Cliff Beach in Devon.

Ben Read, 28, discovered the dead sea turtle dead near Abbotsham in North Devon last week while out on a walk just 10 miles from his home.

The Kemp’s ridley turtle is the rarest sea turtle and originates from Mexico. They are found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, but can be found as far North as Nova Scotia.

The species was close to extinction in the 1980s because of hunting, the over harvesting of their eggs on Mexican nesting beaches and fisheries bycatch during shrimp trawling. Despite their nesting grounds now being protected and many commercial fishing fleets using special turtle excluder devices in their nets, these turtles still remain critically endangered.

Today’s major threats include habitat loss and degradation, climate change, bycatch, wildlife trade, pollution and collection of eggs and meat for consumption. Kemp’s ridley turtles have nests that are shallow and conspicuous, making them easily found by humans and other predators such as coyotes, skunks, racoons and ghost crabs.

The worldwide female nesting population is estimated at just 1,000 known individuals.

The discovery of this stranded individual is in addition to two more critically-endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles being found in Cumbria and Merseyside, 5,000 miles from their home last December.

These turtles can not survive in British waters. A sudden drop in sea temperatures may have left these cold blooded creatures becoming lethargic and stunned by the cold, meaning they were perhaps unable to swim against the strong currents, resulting in them becoming stranded around the English coastline.

The sea turtle is currently waiting further analysis and full identification. If the turtle is found to be this endangered breed, study of the turtle is very important because of the few nesting females of the species left and also because marine turtles play important roles in marine ecosystems.


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Lucy Grable

Lucy Grable

MSc Species Identification and Survey Skills student at Reading Uni | BSc Marine Zoology | Website Editor MARINElife | Zanzibar humpback whale researcher|Marine wildlife enthusiast

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