The Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Image of a Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle nesting
A Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle is seen nesting.

NPS Photo

Common Name: Kemp's ridley - named Kemp's after Richard Kemp, who helped discover and study the turtle.

Scientific Name: Lepidochelys kempii

Description: The Kemp’s is the rarest of the sea turtles. It’s a small turtle with a circular to heart-shaped keeled top shell that is almost as wide as it is long. Head is moderate and triangular in size. Front flippers have 1 claw, while the rear flipper has 1 or 2 claws. Adults have a dark grey green top shell with a white or yellowish bottom shell, while the hatchlings are jet black.

Adults: around 2 to 2.4 feet in length and weigh between 77 and 100 pounds.
Hatchlings: around 1.5 to 1.75 inches in length.

Diet: Have powerful jaws that help them to crush and grind crabs, calms, mussels, and shrimp.

Habitat: Prefer shallow areas with sandy and muddy bottoms.

Nesting: Kemp's ridleys nest more often than other species, every 1 1/2 years on average. They also nest in mass synchronized nestings called arribadas (Spanish for "arrival"). Only the olive ridley also nests this way. Kemp's ridleys nest 2 - 3 times each season. They lay an average of 110 eggs in each nest and the eggs incubate for about 55 days. Kemp’s do not nest on CAHA’s beaches, but juveniles and adults are found off the shores and in the sounds.

Range: Adults are mostly limited to the Gulf of Mexico. Juveniles range between tropical and temperate coastal areas of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and can be found up and down the east coast of the United States.

Listed as Endangered under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act.
International: Listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Population Estimate: More than 2,500 nesting females (male population numbers are unknown). The overall population in thought to be increasing.

Last updated: October 5, 2023

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Manteo, NC 27954


252 473-2111

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