Scientific Name: Lepidochelys kempi
Malti: Il-fekruna ta’ Kempi
The Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempi) is a marine turtle classified under the family Cheloniidae
is at Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas in Mexico. The nesting site in 1947 estimated 40,000 turtles, however in the past years the number has dropped down to hundreds only, despite increase of and beach protection.
The turtle’s head is moderate and has a triangular shape. The carapace, which is the hard outer covering on its back, is bony without ridges, has non-overlapping scales which are also known as scutes.
The front flippers have one claw while rear flipper can have up to two claws. Their back colour is generally dark grey green while the underside, which is known as the plastron has a white or yellowish colour. They can reach up to 66cm in carapace length and 49kg in size. This species has a powerful jaw which enables it to grind crabs, clams, mussels, jellyfish and other similar animals. Its preferred habitat is shallow areas with sandy and muddy bottoms where there is abundance of this type of prey.
This species still remains the rarest sea turtle in the world, however in 1978 by means of the “head starting” program, the nesting population has increased modestly and thus this species is identified as “conservation dependent” rather than “endangered”. The main threat to this sea turtle is human activity including collection of eggs or killing adults and juveniles for meat, and also shrimp trawlers.
In Mediterranean Sea, until the 1990s, the kemp’s ridely had only been recorded from a single record which happened to be recorded in Maltese waters. This marine turtle species was caught approximately one mile from the mouth of the Grand Harbour in October 1929. It is important to point out the carapace of this kemp’s ridely which was caught in the Maltese waters was brought and kept at the Museum of Natural History in Mdina. Recently this species was also recorded in Spain following many measures of conservation on the Mexican beach.