Thanks to the collaborative effort between the Gladys Porter Zoo and several Mexican government agencies, the Kemps ridley sea turtle has seen its highest population in years.

The Kemps ridley sea turtle bi-national project started in 1978 as a cooperative program between Mexico and the United States to restore the Kemps ridley population to sustainable levels.

GPZ Curator of Conservation Jaime Peña said the Gulf of Mexico is home to five species of sea turtles.

Peña said one of the reasons the Kemps ridley population has decreased is because it’s the smallest sea turtle out of the seven species and nests only on the RanchoNuevoBeach in Tamaulipas, which is a big disadvantage for the species.

The nesting season for the Kemps ridley recently ended with 25,000 registered nests and each nest containing from 95 to 100 eggs.

“Basically what we do is we get there at the beginning of March just before the turtles start nesting and they’ll stay in their protective corrals in six different camps in Tamaulipas and South Padre Island,” Peña said.

Volunteers patrol the beaches and wait for the turtles to come out to collect as many eggs as they can before they harden. The eggs are about the size of a Ping-Pong ball.

“When they just lay the eggs, they’re very soft and leathery and in about eight hours they will harden,” Peña said.

Pena said it is estimated that one out of 1,000 baby turtles will make it to adulthood.

“This year, given the 25,000 registered nests, we did some estimates and we released 1.2 million (Kemps ridley) baby turtles into the Gulf of Mexico,” Peña said.

By Kaila Contreras Staff Writer