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  Dec. 2004 News   January 2005 Ridley Turtle Update



Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Program 2004

Record-breaking season for the endangered Kemp’s ridleys in Texas

The 2004 season was record breaking despite concerns resulting from BNP drilling on Padre Island. Forty-two Kemp’s ridley nests were found on the Texas Coast this year: twenty-five on North Padre Island (twenty-two at Padre Island National Seashore), two on Bolivar Peninsula, two on Galveston Island, one near Surfside, Texas, three on Mustang Island, five on South Padre Island, and four on Boca Chica Beach. From these nests, 3,298 hatchlings were released, having largely been incubated in the facility at the seashore under the direction of Dr. Donna Shaver (nine clutches were corralled and released on South Padre and one nest was found hatching and released on Mustang Island). Releases were attended by approximately 2,300 enthusiastic fans. These sea turtle releases—free to the public and starting at approximately dawn on scheduled days--have become a major attraction to the Padre Island National Seashore, which is the only place in the United States where these rare events may be observed.


New Facility for Sea Turtle Program

Fortunately, work is expected to begin immediately on a new facility which will be located the property adjacent to the headquarters of the National Park Service. This facility will double the space for incubation, which at the present time has reached or passed capacity. The new facility will significantly upgrade the working space required by Dr. Shaver’s staff and the many volunteers who implement the Sea Turtle Recovery Program.


Drilling on the Island

At the present time, it appears that drilling of five new wells will proceed. BNP officials have thus far cooperated with Park officials and followed fairly stringent restrictions to protect the nesting turtles. Employees of BNP receive orientation from Turtle Recovery personnel. They precede heavy equipment down the beach on ATV’s looking for signs of nesting, and BNP workers follow the caravans with equipment which covers the tracks made by the procession. Despite these efforts, however, heavy equipment moving down the beach during nesting season is by any reckoning counter productive.


Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Program Success Due to Dedication

The success of the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Program on Padre Island is due to the more than 24-year dedication of Dr. Donna Shaver. She is assisted each year by her seasoned staff (particularly by veteran turtle biologist Cynthia Rubio), and a growing number of volunteers who patrol the beaches on ATV’s from 6:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. seven days a week during nesting season (April through mid-July).

Interested potential volunteers should contact the staff at the National Seashore. For more detailed information about the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Program, see or call the National Seashore and ask for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Lab.

Mina Williams and Venice Scheurich