Fun Kemp's Ridley Turtle Facts For Kids

Abhishek Mishra
Oct 20, 2022 By Abhishek Mishra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
Interesting Kemp's ridley turtle facts for kids including nesting beach habits, distribution, range, and predators.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.3 Min

One of the world's most endangered sea turtle species, Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), is primarily seen in Bermuda, Canada, and the Gulf of Mexico. The adult turtles are distributed from the northwest Atlantic waters to the Gulf of Mexico.

The prominent nesting beaches are in the state of Tamaulipas. The species is also known as the Atlantic ridley sea turtle. The species is named after Richard Moore Kemp.

The Kemp's ridley turtle is the smallest among the sea turtle species. The average length of the turtles is 23–28 in (58.4-71 cm), while they weigh around 79–99 lb (35.8-45 kg).

If kept in captivity, the turtles could reach about 30 in (76.2 cm) in length and 110 lb (50 kg) in weight.

The turtle's carapace, or the hard upper shell, has five pairs of costal scutes and is olive-gray, while the plastron, or the bottom shell, is white or yellow-green. The turtle possesses a triangular-shaped head and hooked beak with large crushing surfaces that resemble the olive ridley sea turtle.

The species is an omnivore and primarily prey on fishes, jellyfish, crustaceans, algae, seaweed, mollusks, sea urchins. The hatchlings of Kemp's ridley turtles also prey on small crabs.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species in the Critically Endangered category and are listed as an endangered species in the United States Federal List as the population is constantly declining.

Keep on reading to learn more interesting facts about Kemp's ridley sea turtle. If you want to know more exciting information about different animals, check out the olive ridley sea turtle and snapping turtle.

Kemp's Ridley Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Kemp's ridley turtle?

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is the smallest among the sea turtle species. The turtles are omnivores, and they primarily prey on fishes, jellyfish, crustaceans, algae, seaweed, mollusks, sea urchins. The turtles are found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean.

What class of animal does a Kemp's ridley turtle belong to?

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) belongs to the class of Reptilia, the family of the Cheloniidae, and the Lepidochelys genus.

How many Kemp's ridley turtles are there in the world?

Over the years, the population of Kemp's ridley turtles has been declining. A recent study reveals that the nesting population of females was around 7000-9000, according to a statistic of 1985.

The governments of several countries have made stricter provisions to protect the rare Kemp's ridleys. As of now, the species is found in a few North American countries and Bermuda.

Where does a Kemp's ridley turtle live?

The Kemp's ridley sea turtles are very rare and are confined to a few regions of the Atlantic ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The species is prominently found in Canada, the United States, Bermuda, and as far north as Nova Scotia.

What is a Kemp's ridley turtle's habitat?

Like most of the species, the Kemp's ridley sea turtle primarily inhabits the coastal regions. The species are generally found in the waters having muddy or sandy bottoms. Also, the sea turtle species also adobe in the open seas. The Kemp's ridley nesting beaches can also be found on the padre island national seashore in Texas, the United States.

Who do Kemp's ridley turtles live with?

Like other species of turtles, these sea turtles are solitary and prefer to live in isolation. During their breeding season, the sea turtles come closer to each other. The Kemp's ridleys spend most of their time swimming and migrating.

How long does a Kemp's ridley turtle live?

Unlike other sea turtles, the Kemp's ridleys generally live longer. The average lifespan of Kemp's ridley sea turtle is around 30-40 years, but some studies also reveal that Kemp's ridleys could live for around 50 years. At the time of hatching, the chances of death increase.

How do they reproduce?

The ridley turtles come into contact with others during the breeding season only. Unlike other species, the ridley turtles reach sexual maturity at an early stage. Most of the species reach sexual maturity after 15-16 years of age, while ridley turtles attain at 10-12 years of age.

The reproduction takes place inside the waters. The female Kemp's ridley turtles swim to the shore in large groups called arribadas, and the nesting takes place on beaches. The prominent nesting beaches are in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Other than that, the padre island national seashore of Texas serves as nesting beaches.

Male Kemp's ridley turtles generally use their claws to hold the female Kemp's ridleys. The females use their fore flippers to dig a hole and hind flippers to dig the cavity into which the females deposit eggs.

The females nest 1-9 clutches and lay around 50 to 200 eggs in one season. The eggs are usually very tough and filled with mucus which serves as protective shields to the hatchlings. Kemp's ridley nesting occurs between April to July.

What is their conservation status?

The species of sea turtles are pretty rare, and the population has also been declining over the years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the Kemp's ridleys as a Critically Endangered species.

As the sea turtles are mostly confined to the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service listed the sea turtles as endangered.

But several conservation provisions have been made to protect and increase the population of the species and reduce capture in fishing gear. Also, the National Marine Fisheries Service is constantly examining the status of these sea turtles.

Kemp's Ridley Turtle Fun Facts

What do Kemp's ridley turtles look like?

Kemp's Ridley Turtle

Named after Richard Moore Kemp, the small-sized Kemp's ridley sea turtles are very attractive. The juveniles also have triangular-shaped heads and hooked beaks, just like the adults.  

How cute are they?

They have a beautiful olive-gray carapace or upper shell and an off-white plastron or bottom shell. The most fascinating characteristic of this marine turtle is the ability of cryptic coloration, also known as camouflage.

How do they communicate?

The marine turtle is an anti-social animal and generally lives alone but uses several methods such as grunting and squealing to communicate. Also, male turtles turn more vocal during the breeding season. Through the sense of smell, the turtles try to identify danger or threat.

How big is a Kemp's ridley turtle?

The average length of these rare marine turtles is 23–28 in (58.4-71 cm) and they weigh around 779–99 lb (35.8-45 kg). If kept in captivity, these turtles may reach more than 100 lb (45.3 kg). These marine turtles are twenty times larger than the length of the black-breasted leaf turtles of Southeast Asia.

How fast can a Kemp's ridley turtle move?

Like other marine turtles, the Kemp's ridleys are quite slow. They move at a speed of 0.4-0.8 mph (0.7-1.3 kph) but the turtles become quite active while catching the prey.

How much does a Kemp's ridley turtle weigh?

The average weight of the Kemp's ridley turtle is 79–99 lb (35.8-45 kg), some even weigh around 110 lb (50 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to the male and females species of Kemp's ridley turtles. The male turtles have thicker and longer tails compared to females.

What would you call a baby Kemp's ridley turtle?

No particular name is used to refer to the babies of the turtle. People often refer to the babies as hatchlings.

What do they eat?

The species lives either in the ocean or on the beach and the turtles are omnivores. The juveniles or the young turtles primarily prey on crabs while the adults prey on shrimps, jellyfish, crustaceans, algae, seaweed, mollusks, sea urchins, fishes, and vegetation as well.

Are they dangerous?

Unlike other species, Kemp's ridleys are very small and prefer to live alone. We do not have much information regarding the social behavior of the species but in general, they do not possess any danger to humans.

Also, the species have no teeth but can attack with the hooked beak if they feel threatened or someone tries to come closer.

Would they make a good pet?

People are not allowed to keep the Kemp's ridley turtles as pets in any North American countries where the species is found such as Mexico, Canada, and the United States. The species has been listed as Critically Endangered by several organizations and is on the verge of extinction.

Instead of keeping them as pets, the need of the hour is to protect them, and several steps should be taken for the conservation of the endangered sea species.

Did you know...

An interesting fact about the life history of the species is that there were more than 89,000 nesting females in 1947. The sex is of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the beach where the females lay eggs. Studies reveal that male hatchlings are born if the temperature remains below 29 degrees Celsius.

In the last decade, the U.S Fish and Marine Services found that there were only 128 nests of the Kemp's ridley turtles on the Padre Island National Seashore and the Mustang island.

Incidental capture and shrimp trawls are the major threats to these endangered sea turtles.

In a few regions, people also refer to the species as the heartbreak turtle as one of the fishermen saw the turtle dying of a heart attack.

Around 156 sea turtles died due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and most of them were the Kemp's ridley turtles.

How do Kemp's ridley sea turtles protect themselves?

Just like other species, the Kemp's ridleys use their hard shells to protect themselves and avoid predation. The carapace or the upper shell serves as a protective shield and prevents large ocean predators like sharks from biting their limbs. Also, the species have the ability of cryptic coloration, also known as camouflage, that helps them to deceive other animals.

Why are Kemp's ridley sea turtles important?

Kemp's ridley sea turtles play a very significant role in the ecosystem of the ocean. Like other species of sea turtle, the Kemp's ridleys help maintain the food webs and the health of the ocean. Several organizations around the world are making different conservation policies to raise the population of this species and reduce any capture in fishing gear.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles from our rattlesnake facts and green anaconda facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Kemps ridley turtle coloring pages.

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Written by Abhishek Mishra

Bachelor of Arts specializing in History

Abhishek Mishra picture

Abhishek MishraBachelor of Arts specializing in History

As a content writer, Abhishek's passion for writing extends beyond professional content creation. With a Bachelor's degree in History from Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi, Abhishek is a skilled writer in both English and Hindi, bringing a creative flair to his work. He enjoys crafting satires and poetry and is dedicated to producing engaging and informative content.

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Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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