Every summer, Padre Island National Seashore’s turtle team inventories Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests in the park’s sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The eggs are carefully dug up and incubated at a park lab away from human disruptions and natural predators. Under the watchful eye of Donna Shaver, Ph.D., chief of sea turtle science and recovery, thousands of turtle babies are hatched and released, often cheered on by adoring crowds as they make their slow crawl to the sea. After five years of record nesting, Shaver says the park’s plan to restore the endangered Kemp’s ridley is working: turtles hatched from eggs transplanted from Mexico, as part of an international recovery effort, and released 10-15 years ago are coming back to the park to lay their own eggs. They are even being joined by “wild stock” – turtles that were not hatched as part of the recovery efforts – making Padre Island National Seashore the most prolific Kemp’s ridley nesting beach in the U.S.
Today, the National Park Service protects and works to recover the more than 480 threatened and endangered plant and animal species that live in national parks – making America’s Best Idea even better.