Critically endangered turtle from the Gulf of Mexico washes up on Welsh beach

A critically endangered Kemp's Ridley Turtle has washed up on a beach in the Gower.

It is the rarest of the world's seven turtle species and only nine have previously washed up in the UK.

Three have now been found on Welsh shores.

A member of the public discovered the sea turtle washed up on Llangennith beach on Thursday 19th. A team from Natural Resources Wales and Professor Mary Gagen from Swansea University confirmed it was the Kemp's Ridley.

Wildlife Biologist and Swansea University Fellow Lizzie Daly said it was an "important" find and suggested the cause of death may well have been cold water shock.

Natural Resources Wales will now store the turtle ready for an in-depth necroscopy to try to determine specific cause of death.

Credit: Lizzie Daly

What is a Kemp's Ridley Turtle?

  • They are named Kemp’s after Richard Kemp, who helped discover and study the turtle. The Sea Turtle Conservancy says no one is sure why it is called ridley, possibly due to having similar nesting behaviour as the olive ridley, the most common sea turtle.

  • They have powerful jaws that help them crush and grind crabs, clams, mussels, and prawns. They also like to eat fish, sea urchins, squid and jellyfish.

  • They are normally found on the shores and water in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • The decline was due to egg harvesting and ‘bycatch’ in trawl fisheries - bycatch is the capture of non-target species such as dolphins, marine turtles and seabirds in fishing gear.

  • It is estimated there are only between 7,000 and 9,000 nesting females left in the world.

  • The Kemp's Ridley species declined to a few hundred nesting females in the 1980s at a single beach in Mexico.

  • Since then, conservation measures have helped the species to recover to over 10,000 breeding females which nest around the Gulf of Mexico.