Scientists released hundreds of Kemp's ridley sea turtle hatchlings onto a beach at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas on Monday, July 26, 2010. The tiny, days-old turtles headed into the Gulf of Mexico in an area 400 miles from the oil spill. The little guys have got a lot of danger ahead of them that, sadly, a good many will not survive. Not only must they contend with the threats in nature, they must also deal with the dangers presented by the oil spill.
Loggerhead turtles from Florida were moved to safer eastern Florida waters but the Kemp's ridley turtles were released into the coasts of Texas and Mexico as originally planned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service. Since June, between seven and eight thousand Kemp's ridley sea turtle hatchlings have been released. Biologists are hoping that by time the Kemp's make their way to the spill zone, the mess will have been cleaned up.
Releasing the baby turtles was a move made not without some controversy. The biologists believe that keeping the turtles in captivity until the oil is cleaned up would cause them greater harm than good. Some fear that releasing the fragile and highly endangered turtles into the tainted waters will deal them a major setback.
Kemp's ridley sea turtles are the smallest living sea turtle species. Fully mature, they reach lengths of only 2-3 feet and weight around 100 pounds. They have been on the endangered list since 1973. By 1985 their numbers had dwindled to a dangerously low 7,702. Since the oil spill, 638 sea turtles have been found dead. A staggering 524 of those turtles were Kemp's ridleys.
For more information on the Kemp's ridley sea turtles, and other sea turtles being cared for by conservationists, you can read these articles:
Oily Future for Sea Turtle Hatchlings?
Despite Oil, Baby Turtles Being Released to Gulf