A new sea turtle is heading to the Mississippi’s Gulf Coast as the NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have selected the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport to receive a female non-releasable Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
The aquarium received the new turtle earlier this week after receiving expert care during a 90-day quarantine at SeaWorld in Orlando. Nine additional Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were distributed across the nation after being transported from NOAA’s Galveston Laboratory in Texas to the Cayman Turtle Centre in 1980 for an experimental breeding program.
At that time, the wild Kemp’s ridley population was at risk of functional extinction due to the hunting of adult turtles and eggs for food and bycatch in shrimp fisheries. The breeding program was discontinued decades ago as Kemp’s ridley population began growing due to international conservation efforts.
Now, the aquarium is set to house its newest addition in Aquatic Wonders, its oceanic habitat.
“Mississippi Aquarium is honored to be the recipient of a highly endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle,” said Mississippi Aquarium CEO and President Kurt Allen. “These turtles are native to the Mississippi Sound, and our guests now have the opportunity to see one in our main oceans habitat. We are very grateful to NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services for recognizing Mississippi Aquarium as a leader in Kemp’s ridley sea turtle rehabilitation and for selecting us as one of only a few aquariums to receive one of these unique turtles.”
Within the last two years, the Mississippi Aquarium has successfully rehabilitated and released over 60 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico.