by 1st Lt. Alicia Wallace
45th Space Wing Public Affairs
6/2/2015 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- The
rarest and most endangered sea turtle in the world, the Kemp's ridley
was discovered nesting on the beach of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Fla., May 14 and again on May 28.
Angy Chambers, 45th Civil Engineer Squadron biological scientist, found
the first nest on the beach during the morning sea turtle survey.
Chambers and Martha Carroll, another biological scientist from the 45
CES, were the first ever to document a Kemp's ridley nest found at
CCAFS. They marked and screened the nest and took photos and videos of
the female sea turtle crawling up the beach, depositing her eggs and
returning to the ocean.
"This is an amazing discovery, and we feel so privileged to be a part of
it. We are making history here because there has never been a
documented Kemp's ridley nest at CCAFS until now; and we were present to
witness the entire nesting process. This species is critically
endangered, and we could not think of a better place than CCAFS to help
preserve it with our commitment to protecting endangered wildlife," said
The Kemp's ridley, scientific name Lepidochelys kempii, nest in Florida
in very small numbers; only seven Kemp's ridley nests were documented in
Florida in 2014, according to Carroll. Their primary nesting habitat
is on the Gulf coast of Mexico. Young Kemp's ridley sea turtles are
found in tropical and temperate coastal areas of the northwest Atlantic
Ocean and can be found up and down the east coast of the United States,
according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Kemp's ridley sea turtles are smaller than the Cape's typical nesting
sea turtles, weighing 85 to 100 pounds and measuring 2 to 2.5 feet in
carapace (upper shell) length, but they are tough and tenacious,
according to Carroll. Their principal diet consists of crabs and other
The greatest threat to the Kemp's ridley, according to the Sea Turtle
Conservancy, is from human activities, which includes the collection of
eggs and hunting for meat and other products. The significant decline in
the number of Kemp's ridley's can be attributed to high levels of
incidental take by shrimp trawlers in the past.
During a subsequent sea turtle survey May 28, Chambers and Carroll
witnessed the same sea turtle nesting again on the beach of CCAFS.
"I couldn't believe the first time we saw the Kemp's ridley nesting here
at the Cape. And then when we witnessed her nesting on the beach again,
I was absolutely astounded!" said Carroll. "The timing was
unbelievable! I feel so privileged to be one of the only ones to
witness this beautiful and endangered creature returning to her natal
beach and nesting."
Following the 50-60 day incubation period, the 45 CES biological
scientists will report on the success of the Kemp's ridley hatchlings.
In addition to the two Kemp's ridley nests, this sea turtle nesting
season as of May 28, CCAFS has a total of 572 loggerhead sea turtle
nests, one green nest and three leatherback nests; Patrick Air Force
Base has a total of 152 loggerhead nests.
The loggerhead sea turtle is the most common nester at CCAFS and PAFB
with an average total of more than 3000 nests per year combined for both