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Searching for the ‘Heartbreak Turtle’ addresses Kemp’s Ridley turtle’s tale

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From Wilma Katz of Englewood's Coastal Wildlife Club:

Dear Turtle Friends,

In mid-November, I attended the Second Symposium on the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle held in Brownsville, Texas. The presentations and discussion throughout the meeting were informative and timely. I was impressed particularly with a presentation by Dr. Thane Wibbels (pictured at left, with two of his lab assistants). His topic was: “SEARCHING FOR THE ‘HEARTBREAK TURTLE’: How the efforts of a diverse group of historic personalities coalesced to save the most endangered sea turtle in the world”.

This is not an exaggeration. As Thane demonstrated at the symposium, the Kemp’s story is one of suspense, excitement, and heroes. And it is not over. I asked him if he’d be willing to come here and retell the story. Happily for us, he agreed. In addition to its history, Thane will update us on the species’ status today, and perhaps will offer insights into the recent extreme numbers of cold-stunned turtles, most of them Kemp’s, on Cape Cod (the all-species count was 1227 as of last week…), and on the continuing impact of the 2010 BP oil spill, on this species especially.

Thane has been on the faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham since 1993, and has degrees from the University of Nebraska, the University of Houston, and from Texas A&M. In the international sea turtle community, he is best known for his research and expertise on temperature-dependent sex determination and on sex ratios in turtles. His extensive research includes sand studies on Sarasota County beaches and in-water studies on both Florida coasts and elsewhere.

On Manasota Key in 2014, a Kemp’s nested just north of the Sarasota/Charlotte county line. Another Kemp’s nest was recorded on Stump Pass Beach State Park. Kemp’s ridleys are considered a rare species in Florida and nests are identified conclusively only by photo documentation or, absent that, by DNA analysis. Beachgoers are encouraged to forward photos and information to us of any daytime nesting they observe. Fortunately, Kemp’s ridleys are daytime nesters and if noticed by beach goers, they are often photographed.


When: Thursday, January 22nd, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Lemon Bay Park, 570 Bay Park Blvd., Englewood

Please note Thursday, January 22nd on your calendar and:
  1. To share our good fortune because we can, please bring canned goods or other non-perishables and supplies (eg toilet paper) for delivery by Carol and Jeff Rice to Englewood Helping Hand for distribution to people having a rough time.
  2. Please bring screw-on plastic bottle and jar caps for recycling programs at local schools. These are traded for credit on recycled plastic equipment or benches, etc.
And please come early enough to say hello to Thane and to enjoy desserts and coffee.

We are hosting this program in collaboration with Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Department. The program is open to the public, and there is no charge.

We look forward to seeing you!