Kemp's ridley turtle

Kemp’s ridleys are the rarest of all the marine turtles, and were close to extinction in the 1980’s. The carapace of adult turtles is olive-green and they have a broad, parrot-like beak.

How big?

Kemp’s ridleys and their close relative the olive ridley are the smallest marine turtles. Adult Kemp’s ridleys have an almost completely round carapace measuring about 70cm long, and they weigh approximately 40kg.

What’s on the menu?

Kemp’s ridley’s feed on bottom living crabs, clams, mussels and shrimps and other small sea creatures living on the muddy areas of sea bed where they like to forage.

Where do they live?

They are mostly limited to the Gulf of Mexico. Juvenile Kemp’s ridleys range between tropical and temperate coastal areas of the northwest Atlantic Ocean. The only major breeding site for Kemp’s ridleys is on a stretch of beach at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico. Juvenile Kemp’s ridley turtles occasionally occur in UK waters.


Kemp’s ridleys are considered to be critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population was decimated by egg harvesting, hunting of nesting females and by the accidental drowning of thousands of turtles in shrimp trawl nets in the Gulf of Mexico. The nesting population of female Kemps ridleys was down to a few hundred nesting females laying approximately 700 nests in 1985. Since then, successful conservation efforts by the Governments of Mexico and the USA and conservationist organisations have led to better protection at the nesting beach, and the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED’s) on shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico. The Kemp’s ridley population is slowly recovering and now approximately 10,000 nests are laid at Rancho Nuevo each year.

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