Wildlife Fact Sheets

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Lepidochelys kempii

  • Life Span
    50 years
  • Habitat
    Shallow areas with sandy and muddy bottoms
  • Range
    You can find me in the Gulf of Mexico and along the east coast of the United States.
  • Preferred Food
    I love crabs, clams, mussels, shrimp, fish, sea urchins, squid and jellyfish.


I am the world’s most endangered sea turtle, with an estimated worldwide female nesting population of just 1,000. When in shallow waters, I dive to the bottom to feed on my favorite food—crabs! I use my powerful jaws to bite through their shells, which otherwise would be difficult to eat. You can recognize me by my triangular-shaped head, my grayish-green carapace (upper shell) and my pale yellow plastron (bottom shell).

Weighing in at roughly 100 pounds, I am one of the smallest sea turtles swimming in the sea. Females nest every one to three years and often travel hundreds of miles to get to just the right location, aiming for the same beach they hatched on! Our biggest threat to survival is human activity. Unfortunately, some humans collect our eggs before they hatch, and juveniles and adults alike are killed for meat and other products. Shrimp trawlers also accidentally pick us up as bycatch when they pull big nets behind their boats, a method known as trawling.

Unfortunately, we are also greatly impacted by oil spills because our nesting areas in the Gulf overlap with areas that are near major areas of oil drilling. After the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2011, 609 dead sea turtles were found, 481 of which were Kemp’s ridleys.

Did You Know?

We got our name from the scientist that discovered us, Richard M. Kemp. He first observed us in Florida, and we have been known as Kemp’s ridley ever since. No one knows why “ridley” was added to our name.

Status and Conservation

I spend my days in shallow waters with muddy bottoms, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to recent oil spills, my life here has gotten harder. Thankfully, actions are being taken to restore the Gulf region as well as decrease the amount of trash that flows into the ocean! Many fishermen are also using turtle exclusion devices, which help us not get stuck in fishing nets. All of these things will improve my life dramatically and keep my habitat intact.

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