A juvenile female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Flip by her rescuers will soon be returning home to the Texas coast.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest and rarest sea turtle species and one of the most critically endangered species.
Flip was found injured and cold, stranded on the shores of Monster (near The Hague, Holland) by visitors to the beach, on December 10, 2011. She was weak, wounded, and had sand in her eyes.
Animal Rescue transported Flip to SEA LIFE Aquarium Scheveningen to begin a long rehabilitation process.
SEA LIFE aquarists treated her injuries and washed the sand out of her eyes. Flip started to swim later that day. She weighed 1.84kg (4 pounds). Flip was estimated to be two years old and she turned out to be female.
On January 9, 2012, the vet started extensive research regarding Flip’s health. X-rays were taken. This medical research determined that Flip did not have a long lasting injury and can be returned to her natural environment as soon as she is strong enough.
Two days later Flip had started eating for the first time since being rescued.
A short time later (January 21), several international partners started working together to bring the endangered sea turtle back home to the Gulf of Mexico.
Travel documents for Flip’s release were submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who required several months to process the application.
Flip received a chip in her neck on April 2 to enable identification following her release. She continued to eat well and her health remained stable.
Flip continued to grow rapidly and by early May she weighed 3.38kg (7.45 pounds). Medical research showed that Flip is female. Although Flip is a boy’s name, SEA LIFE Scheveningen continued calling her Flip. At this point she gained enough strength for her journey home and her release.
By June 25, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave SEA LIFE Scheveningen the permit for Flip’s release in the United States. SEA LIFE was now able to start the application process with the Dutch government for Flip’s transport to the United States.
Flip’s health continued stable; her weight was now over 4kg (8 pounds)—more than double the weight she had at her arrival at SEA LIFE Scheveningen.
Flip is set to fly non-stop from Amsterdam to Houston and is expected to arrive in early November.
She will then be transported by the SEA LIFE Aquarium Grapevine team to the Port Aransas Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), where a health assessment will be conducted and she will be given time to acclimate to the Texas climate before being released back into the Gulf of Mexico.
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
The Kemp’s ridley turtle is one of the smallest of the sea turtles, with adults reaching about two feet in length and weighing up to about 45kg (100 pounds).
The adult Kemp’s ridley has an oval top shell (carapace) that is almost as wide as it is long and is usually olive-gray in color. The carapace usually has five pairs of costal scutes.
Each of the front flippers has one claw while the back flippers may have one or two.
Kemp’s ridleys feed mostly on crabs, but their diet also includes marine invertebrates and plants, especially when they are young. Crab species consumed varies geographically. In south Texas, Kemp’s ridleys consume a variety of crab species.
The Kemp’s ridley’s range is mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, but immature turtles, probably carried by the currents, often appear along the Atlantic coast, as far north as New England and Nova Scotia. Adults occur primarily in the Gulf of Mexico.
Historic nesting records range from Mustang Island, Texas in the north to Veracruz, Mexico in the south.
In the end, we only conserve what we love.
We only love what we understand.
We will understand what we are taught.
—Baba Dioum, Sengalese poet