News, Culture & Society

Kemps Ridley turtle swam from Caribbean to Cornwall

An ultra-rare turtle who made a 5,000 mile journey across the Atlantic from the Caribbean to Cornwall is now fighting for its life.

The Kemp’s Ridley turtle is the most endangered sea turtle in the world and after making the mammoth journey is now recovering in an aquarium close by.

The baby turtle was discovered on a freezing cold beach in by Newquay, Cornwall by Dave Hudson, a conservation and biodiversity student from Falmouth University. 

When Dave found the youngster it was barely alive and believes it travelled all the way from its natural habitat in the Caribbean near Mexico or Texas. 

An highly-rare species of turtle called the ‘Kemp’s Ridley’ swam 5,000 miles from the Caribean to Newquay, Cornwall

Dave gently picked it up and put it in his car for warmth and drove it to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay where it is now being nursed back to health.

He said: ‘I actually thought it was dead when I picked it up.

‘They go into cold shock which, ultimately, makes them a little bit passive. 

The baby turtle was found by a conservation and biodiversity student from Falmouth University and is now recovering in an aquarium 

The baby turtle was found by a conservation and biodiversity student from Falmouth University and is now recovering in an aquarium 


  • The Kemp’s Ridley is the smallest of the eight species of sea turtles. 
  • Adults range from 75-100 pounds (34-45 kilograms). 
  • The hatch-lings of this species are a solid grey- black color.
  • As they begin to grow into juveniles the coloration of the plastron (bottom shell) turns to white.
  •  The adults are broadly oval or heart shaped and their shells are olive to gray green. 
  • The skin color ranges from creamy color to white. The plastron is a creamy or yellow green in color.
  • The preferred habitat for the Kemp’s is shallow coastal areas, bays and lagoons.
  • While in these areas they often seek their favorite food, crabs. 

Why is it called Kemp’s Ridley? 

  •  In 1880 a Florida fisherman and naturalist named Richard M. Kemp found the first documented specimen of this turtle.
  • To honor his finding the species name became Lepidochelys kempii. 

 Source: Sea Turtle Inc

‘There was very little movement, if any, and so I thought I’d pick it up and see if it’s alright.’ 

The sickly turtle is getting round the clock treatment because he is extremely weak and has a damaged shell.

Experts at the aquarium believe it may have been swept across the Atlantic by the recent stormy weather.

Lara Heaney, displays supervisor at Blue Reed, said: ‘When the turtle arrived at the aquarium we could see there was damage to the shell and the turtle appeared to be extremely weak and dehydrated.

‘The recent stormy weather and strong currents could have possibly caused the turtle harm and to become stranded on the beach.’

She added: ‘There has been an initial response from the turtle who has been feeding and showing signs of getting stronger.

‘Although it is still very early days we are hopeful for the turtle’s survival.’

The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, or the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle, is the rarest species of sea turtle and critically endangered.

They are the smallest type of sea turtle and generally prefer warm waters, but inhabit waters as far north as New Jersey.

They migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida where they often inhabit the waters off Louisiana.