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The Staff at Padre Island National Seashore are celebrating a milestone in the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle recovery project. The 2008 Kemp’s ridley nesting season has proven to be an exciting, record-breaking year for a number of reasons. A record 194 Kemp’s ridley nests were found on the Texas coast this year, including 102 Kemp’s on North Padre Island. Eggs from 143 of these nests were incubated at Padre Island National Seashore. To date, 10,237 hatchlings have been released at the park, with hundreds more due to be released by August 23. This will be the first year that more than 100 nests were found and more than 10,000 hatchlings released at any single location in Texas since conservation efforts and record keeping began in 1978.
So far this year, 16 releases of hatchling Kemp’s ridley turtles at the National Seashore have been open to the public, free-of-charge. Although Hurricane Dolly forced cancellation of public releases last week (when more hatchlings were due to be released than any other week this year), required care activities continued, with no impacts to the eggs or hatchlings.
This week, the last public hatchling release of the year will be held. The public, project partners, and media will be invited to attend. The release date will depend on hatching progress, with most likely dates either July 30 or 31, or August 1. A media advisory will be sent out the day before the release.
The numbers that have been found this year strongly suggest that long-term efforts of a multi-agency partnership to re-establish nesting by this species at the National Seashore show very promising signs of success. The National Park Service Centennial Challenge, with partners including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Friends of Padre, Inc., National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Shell Marine Habitat Program, and National Park Foundation/Unilever, provided funding that was invaluable in helping enable this year’s results. Regardless of the current status of the project, continued protection of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles is necessary.