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Rare moment on video: Endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nests near Delray Beach

'A cool thing about the Kemp's Ridley is they are actually daytime nesters,'
Posted at 5:15 PM, May 09, 2023

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — An incredible and rare moment was captured on camera near Ocean Ridge and Delray Beach, Florida when a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle laid her eggs in the sand.

Every day from March 1 to October 31, Sea Turtle Adventures monitors go out on the beach at sunrise to look for sea turtle nests. There are seven types of sea turtles, but the Kemp’s Ridley is rare to see nesting in Florida.

Lexie Dvoracek with Sea Turtle Adventures explained the excitement over the sighting.

"One of our experienced monitors was out and she was able to see a Kemp's Ridley. Now, we have had this permit to monitor this section of beach for 25 years now," she said, "and this is the very first time in the history of our program that we've ever gotten a turtle of this species. So, we were all freaking out.”

While most sea turtles nest overnight, the easy visibility of the nesting makes the video even more special.

"A cool thing about the Kemp's Ridley is they are actually daytime nesters, so they will come out in the day and nest," she said. "So, not only did we get the super rare species, but they are weird nesters, they do it during the day, so we got to like experience it."

The Kemp's Ridley is the smallest sea turtle, which grows to be 70 to 100 pounds.

"The Kemp's Ridley turtle, you can sometimes see it off the coast of Florida, like if you're an avid diver or snorkeler, you might see it in the water," she said. "But they typically nest in Mexico or in Texas, so kind of in the Gulf of Mexico area, I think the state of Florida will only see a handful, like 20 nests of theirs, in a given year, and that's spread throughout the whole state."

In the video, you will see the turtle’s unique movements.

"They do what's called like a Ridley dance, their shell almost looks like they're doing like a little salsa or something as they're burying their nest, so it's super cool to see," she said.

The turtle left unique markings in the sand.

"And to make this unique turtle even more unique she was actually missing her back right flipper, so if you look at the video you can see they kind of have their little leg," she said. "And then they actually have a little paddle-shaped flipper at the bottom, and she was missing that so she kind of had like a little stump."

Despite this, Dvoracek said the mom was able to successfully nest.

Sea Turtle Adventures is a 501C3 non-profit. The founder has held a permit with FWC to look over the 3-mile section of beach near Delray Beach for 25 years.

The trained monitors scope out nests and mark them with stakes, coming back two months later to dig up empty egg shells and count to see how many eggs have hatched. If live hatchlings are stuck in the nest, they help rescue them.

The non-profit also has several outreach programs to inform the public.

Within the broader program, iCARE is a program that gives opportunities to adults with special needs. They help paint stakes, and collect trash like fishing line from the beaches.

Monitors can see 600 or 700 sea turtle nests in any given season, but this was a special one.

“We were freaking out,” Dvoracek said.