Estimating the historic size and current status of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) population
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Estimating the historic size and current status of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) population

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    This study is a quantitative evaluation of historic nesting levels of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) in 1947 based on (1) the Herrera film of a 1947 arribada, (2) Hildebrand's 1947 report regarding the 1947 arribada shown in the Herrera film, (3) historic documentation regarding the Herrera film, and (4) current nesting characteristics related to arribada size relative to total nests for a season. Using this information in a quantitative approach, we estimate a total of approximately 26 916 nests during the 1947 arribada recorded by Herrera. Based on current nesting trends, we also predict that this would equate to approximately 121 517 total nests for the 1947 season (range of 82 514–209 953), which would represent approximately 48 607 nesting females (range of 33 006–83 981). This suggests that during and prior to the 1947 nesting season a relatively robust population of Kemp's ridleys existed, which could support arribadas consisting of at least 26 916 females. The results of the current study indicate that from 1947 through 1985 (the lowest point in the decline of Kemp's ridley nesting) the Kemp's ridley population underwent a 99.4% decline (range of 99.2–99.7%) from an estimated 121 517 nests per season in 1947 to 702 nests per season in 1985. Although the Kemp's ridley population has been recovering since the 1985 season, it has deviated from its exponential recovery rate and has declined in recent years. The current levels of nesting (12 053 nests in 2014) are still relatively low at 9.9% (range of 5.7–14.6%) of the total estimated nests that occurred in 1947. It is currently not clear whether this population will recover to historic levels considering recent nesting trends and due to a variety of threats that may hinder its recovery.
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    Ecosphere, 7(3)
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    CC BY
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