Gulf of Mexico
via NOAA Fisheries

TX - World's rarest sea turtle lays eggs on Texas beach

'This has never happened in modern times.'

For the first time ever, the world's rarest species of sea turtle has laid eggs on a Texas beach. Experts recently discovered the "conservation success" on the shores of Magnolia Beach: a sea turtle nest containing approximately 45 hatching Kemp's ridley eggs. The turtles successfully made it to the water from the nest, according to a news release.

"This has never happened in modern times," said Dr. Pamela Plotkin, director of Texas Sea Grant and sea turtle biologist, in the release. "Sea turtles typically nest on barrier island beaches in Texas and so seeing a turtle nest on a beach inside any bay is rare."

Plotkin said there are many miles of unpopulated bay shoreline along Texas' coast, "so it is possible that sea turtle nesting on these shores is more frequent and undetected."

Kemp's ridley turtles are the world's smallest, most endangered sea turtle, according to the release. They also happen to be the official state turtle of Texas. Zach Padron and Jason Gonzales, maintenance workers with the Calhoun County Precinct 1 Commissioner's Office, found approximately 25 of the hatching turtles while they were picking up trash on the beach.

They also noticed the turtles were heading the wrong way. "I thought, 'We better help them because it's a good ways to the water,'" Padron said in the release. He remembered learning from television shows that hatchling sea turtles are at risk from predators like seagulls. In fact, eggs left on the beach only have a 45 percent chance of hatching, which is why intervention from conservationists can be critical.

Padron and Gonzales notified Calhoun County Marine Extension Agent RJ Shelly, who began excavating the turtle nests upon arriving. He found more turtles that needed help emerging from the nest. "Sure enough, once we started excavating, we saw more and more dig their way out," Shelly said in the release.

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