An extremely rare species of sea turtle is nesting in Louisiana for the first time in 75 years. According to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (LCRPA), Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have been confirmed in the Chandeleur Islands, which are near New Orleans. “Louisiana was largely written off as a nesting ground for sea turtles decades ago,” LCRPA Chairman Chip Kline said in a press release. “But this designation shows why barrier island restoration is so important.”
According to the National Wildlife Federation, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is considered to be the smallest and most endangered sea turtle in the world. A bird survey team reported finding tracks of the baby turtle while searching, prompting the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to begin weekly flights to survey the area. They continued with a field investigation. While searching the sites on foot, two turtles appeared among 53 sets of tracks spotted from the air — and more turtles may be on the way. Sea turtle nesting season usually peaks in July, which is followed by up to 60 days before the eggs hatch.
“It is well known that the Chandeleur Islands provide key habitats for a host of important species. However, with the recent discovery of a ridley sea turtle hatching on Kemp, the value of the island to the region has been raised,” said Jack Montoucet, LDWF secretary. “We are gaining a better understanding of the benefits this barrier island restoration can bring to the recovery of this endangered species throughout the Gulf of Mexico.”
The islands and their inhabitants have suffered significant erosion from storm damage in recent decades, not to mention the impacts of the BP oil spill in 2010. Much of the ongoing recovery effort in the area has been funded by levies due to spillage.
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Other recent sightings of sea turtles have been reported in several coastal states in the Southeast. In Mississippi, ABC News reports that the first turtle nest discovered in four years was found on a mainland beach. Georgia is reporting a new nesting turtle record, with nearly 4,000 loggerhead sea turtle nests found off its coast. Like the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. According to the LCRPA, gophers are also using Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands as nesting grounds.