Rare turtle species washes up on Irish coast

One of the rarest and most endangered species of turtle – Kemp’s Ridley – has washed up on the coast of Ireland and was found dead by a coast-watch volunteer. Now Coastguard Ireland has put out a surveillance message to all volunteers and seaside walkers following the find on the rocks of Rossnowlagh beach in Co Donegal.

Endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

Endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) Image by Photo credit: USFWS / CC BY 2.0

The Irish Independent reports that Kemp's ridley turtle has been described as the world's most endangered sea turtle by National Geographic. They are one of the smallest sea turtles, growing to a maximum of two feet in shell length and weighing up to 100 pounds (45KG). Normally but not exclusively found in the Gulf of Mexico, this unusual find in Ireland comes hot on the heels of a similar discovery of three Kemp's ridley turtles in the UK within the last month.

Coastwatch coordinator Karin Dubsky said: “We would encourage those out walking on the beach to keep their eyes open. If a turtle or the remains of one are found, please contact Coastwatch and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.” It is recommend that anyone who finds one of these creatures should presume they are alive when found due a phenomenon called “cold stunning.”

“As ectotherms the turtles body temperature is strongly linked to sea temperatures," explained Dr Trish Murphy, herpetologist and Coastwatch regional coordinator, who performed the autopsy on the animal found off Donegal. “If water temperatures drop suddenly the turtle will become lethargic and will float on ocean currents, unable to use their muscles effectively,” she added.

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