The Kemp’s ridley is the world’s smallest sea turtle. It’s also the most endangered sea turtle, with only about 1,000 breeding females left. Over-harvesting of eggs throughout the last century drastically reduced the population, and the turtle has had a hard time rebounding. To help keep these turtles from becoming extinct, a Cairn Terrier named Ridley and his owner have been working the beaches of North Padre Island in Texas, searching for nesting areas filled with precious eggs.
An adult Kemp’s ridley weighs 80 to 100 pounds and is 24 to 28 inches long, but a hatchling hits the scale at a mere 0.5 ounces and 1.5 inches. Their average lifespan is thought to be around 50 years. Found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, they prefer diving in shallow waters. These omnivores swim to the bottom in search of crabs, their favorite food. They also eat other shellfish and jellyfish, and will dine on seaweed and sargassum now and then.
Sargassum is a brown seaweed that is found floating in clusters throughout the waters of the Gulf. To many people it’s considered worthless, especially when it washes up on shore. However, to marine life like tiny crabs, shrimp and other small sea creatures, sargassum is home and a place of refuge. For Kemp’s ridley juvenile turtles, this floating seaweed provides a place where they can rest and find food on their journey through the sea.