Lepidochelys – Ridley sea turtles

You're a baby turtle with instincts to follow the moonlight. Now imagine you end up following the beach bar light

Lepidochelys, encompassing both the Olive ridley and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, represents two of the most fascinating yet contrasting tales of marine conservation. The Olive ridley turtles, known for their abundance, contrast sharply with their cousins, the Kemp’s ridley turtles, which have faced near extinction. These species, which can grow up to 71 cm (28 inches) in length and weigh as much as 50 kg (110 pounds), play pivotal roles in their marine ecosystems.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle story is particularly compelling. In the 1960s, this species was on the verge of disappearing, with the population dwindling to as low as 300 breeding individuals. However, Kemp’s Ridley has seen a remarkable turnaround thanks to a binational conservation effort introducing strict protection measures and policies. Today, it is estimated that there are over 8,000 breeding individuals, marking a significant success in conservation efforts.

A distinctive behavior of Lepidochelys turtles is their mass nesting events, known as arribadas for the Olive ridleys, where thousands of females simultaneously come ashore to lay eggs. This spectacle, primarily observed in the Olive ridley population, is less common but equally critical for the Kemp’s ridleys. After laying their eggs on the beach, the turtles return to the sea, leaving their offspring to emerge and instinctively head for the water, guided by the light on the horizon. Unfortunately, this journey is fraught with danger, as the hatchlings are vulnerable to a variety of predators.