Pic ‘o the week – whale’s eye

The Whales
Whales have a fun life
Whales are wonderful mammals
Whales are very nice
–by Nathaniel

A Pacific gray whale, surfacing in the waters off Guerrero Negro, Baja. Dr. Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps, snapped this very cool pic of the behemoth eyeing her one fine recent day on Baja’s waters.

Olive ridley turtle “arribada” in Mexico

Amid the ongoing disaster of the Gulf oil spill and the unspeakable violence happening in parts of Mexico, an astonishing natural wonder dating back thousands of years is happening on some Mexican coasts — the annual “arribadas” of Olive ridley sea turtles.

Described by scientists as “one of the most unique synchronized nesting habits in the natural world,” the “arribada” is breathtaking to see – turtles arriving in waves of hundreds on a single day. They face the usual threats of sea turtles trying to nest on beaches near humans – turtles harrassed and harmed, and eggs taken.

WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, an organization helping locals protect the turtles, gives us the Ixtapilla beach story in excerpts from this article — (translation from Spanish via GoogleTranslate, so a bit rough -bold text is added by us):

(Ixtapilla, Michoacán) “This is one of 12 beaches in the world that records massive arrival of sea turtles…

WiLDCOAST, the Canada Fund, CONANP and Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, have formed an alliance to support the efforts of the Nahua community of Ixtapilla in protecting this endangered species.

This phenomenon is recorded only during the rainy season on three Mexican Pacific beaches that do not cover more than Continue reading “Olive ridley turtle “arribada” in Mexico”

Today’s Gulf sea turtle – Kemp’s ridley

As The Baltimore Sun’s Candus Thomson notes, all five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are listed under the Endangered Species Act (this was pre-oil leak). We’re looking at fast facts about these species, starting with the most endangered:

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
(Lepidochelys kempii)

  • the most endangered of the sea turtles
  • the smallest of the sea turtles, measuring 23 to 28 inches, and weighing up to 100 pounds
  • feed mostly on crabs
  • reach maturity at 10 to 15 years old, and can live 30 to 50 years
  • females nest from May to July, on beaches across the Gulf of Mexico
  • Padre Island National Seashore is one of the most popular nesting beaches for the turtles in the US
  • Kemp’s Ridleys are named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, FL, who first submitted the species for ID in 1906

Kemp’s ridleys display what NOAA calls “one of the most unique synchronized nesting habits in the natural world”, called “arribada”— arriving in waves of hundreds on a single day on beaches in Mexico. Scientists discovered this phenomenon in 1947, when they saw an amateur video documenting an extraordinary arribada near Rancho Nuevo. It is said that approximately 42,000 Kemp’s ridleys nested during that single day. The video also showed locals harvesting more than 80% of the turtle eggs. The arribadas recorded since then have been much lower, numbering in the low thousands of nesting female turtles.

The habitat preferences of Kemp’s ridley hatchlings has led Florida biologist Blair Witherington to say they may well be “the poster child for what’s happening to wildlife” in the Gulf oil spill.

Photos courtesy National Park Service