Gladys Porter Zoo Staff Heading To Mexico For Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Conservation Project

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has had a rough go of it over the past 30 years or so. In fact, in 1985 a count was performed on the beaches of Rancho Nuevo in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and there were only 702 turtles found.

That 30-kilometer stretch of beach represents the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle’s largest nesting ground on the planet.

The good news is that conservation efforts directed toward the Kemp’s ridley appear to be paying off. If you need evidence, consider that at the end of May, which marks the nesting season for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, there were more than 8,000 turtles that showed up on the beach to nest.

Staff members from the Gladys Porter Zoo, in Brownsville Texas, headed down to Rancho Nuevo earlier this month to participate in the now 40-year old conservation project in conjunction with similar entities from Mexico. The zoo has been the chief project manager since 1981, even though reps from Gladys Porter have been involved with the protection of the Kemp’s ridley turtles for even longer than that. The Mexican partners in the project include the government of Tamaulipas and the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas.

Jaime Pena, the Curator of Conservation Programs at Gladys Porter, is optimistic about the outlook of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. People are aware of the plight the turtles face, and they’ve seen the positive effect that conservation goals have had. Hopefully, the success can be passed on to other species in danger.

Rancho Nueva is extremely vital to the survival of the Kemp’s ridley species, as about 80 percent of the entire species’ nests wind up on its shores each year. The conservation staff monitors the beach, and when necessary they’ll collect eggs that may be threatened and place them in protective nests constructed from man-made corrals. The goal for the 2018 nesting season is to have 10,000 nests, which should translate to as many as 500,000 baby sea turtles returning to the ocean once hatched.

Where poaching was once the main threat to the turtles, it’s been replaced by pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a reduction in food sources. However, public education has gone a long way with local residents, and the increased numbers reflect the success.