Rare marine turtle washes up on Devon beach

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A rare, warm water Kemp’s ridley turtle has washed up on Woolacombe Beach, North Devon.

The small dead turtle was reported to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) last Tuesday (28th January 2014).

KempJust 30cm in length, the creature is not the first Kemp’s ridley to be washed up along the UK coastline this winter, according to Dr Peter Richardson, MCS Biodiversity Programme Manager: “Two weeks ago, another Kemp’s ridley was discovered on a beach in Carmarthenshire by a woman out walking her dogs. In December, a Kemp’s ridley washed up alive in South West Wales but died shortly after. In addition, a young loggerhead turtle washed up dead at Worthing, and this month we have also received reports of leatherback turtle remains on Chesil beach near Weymouth, and on Tregantle beach in south east Cornwall.”

In the 1980’s Kemp’s ridleys were on the brink of extinction as a result of hunting and egg collection on the nesting beaches in Mexico, and through accidental capture and drowning in shrimp trawling nets fishing in the Gulf. Back then there were only a few hundred females recorded emerging at the main nesting beaches, but since then strict protection on the beaches has been put in place, and the use of special Turtle Excluder Devices in Gulf of Mexico shrimp nets has grown. These measures have both contributed to the recovery of the species, and now thousands of female Kemp’s ridley turtles emerge to nest each year.

Dr Richardson says it is really important that sightings are reported, “We ask people to keep their eyes peeled for stranded turtles during this stormy weather. Sometimes freshly stranded turtles can appear dead, but may still be alive and can be rescued. They should NOT be put back in the sea, as this will definitely kill them. Instead, they should be moved away from the water to a sheltered place, preferably in a cardboard box out of draughts, and reported to experts for collection. Even if they are obviously dead they should be reported as they can be used for post-mortem research.”

If you’re in the UK and you find a stranded or dead turtle on the beach then you should report them to the Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme on 0800 6520333. You can also find out more information by downloading the UK Turtle Code which you can find at www.mcsuk.org.

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