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Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and American Quarter Horse could become next symbols of Mississippi

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle (left) and the American Quarter Horse (right) could become the next state symbols of Mississippi. 

A bill is moving through the Mississippi legislature to create two more state symbols.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives amended and passed a Senate bill that would designate the American Quarter Horse as the state horse with the addition of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle as the state sea turtle.

According to the bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Rod Hickman, the American Quarter Horse is a perfect fit to represent the Magnolia State as it “is well-suited for the intricate and quick maneuvers required for rodeo events.” The state touts the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi River with the Dixie National taking place each February.

Lawmakers in the House agreed with the Senate’s choice of horse but saw the bill as a perfect opportunity to include one of the few endangered sea turtles native to Mississippi. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are considered the rarest sea turtle in the world and are often transported to the Mississippi Aquarium and Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport when stranded in hypothermia-inducing waters around the globe. Together, the institutions along with partners such as Mississippi State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and governmental agencies work to heal the turtles before releasing them back into the Mississippi Sound.

“We have been working with the state and are delighted to see their support of the designation for the Kemp’s ridley as the state’s official sea turtle,” IMMS executive director and president Dr. Moby Solangi said. “This sea turtle is the most endangered species in the world with Mississippi Sound and adjacent waters being a significant and critical habitat for its juveniles. IMMS has been assisting the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Marine Resources in its restoration and recovery efforts, and it has conducted state of the art research studies and conservation efforts to help protect and conserve the Kemp’s ridley. This designation would highlight the importance of our state and its commitment to the marine ecosystem and its resources.”

With the House’s amendment and near unanimous passage, the bill will travel back to the Senate for approval of the Kemp’s ridley as the state sea turtle. Other official state symbols of Mississippi already signed into law include the mockingbird as the state bird, the blueberry as the state fruit, and milk as the state beverage.

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