A call for evaluation of the contribution made by rescue, resuscitation, rehabilitation, and release translocations to kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) population recovery


© 2016. Monica F. Blasi. All Rights Reserved. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) conservation practices permitted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), under authority of the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, include translocations in which eggs or turtles are taken into captivity for various reasons and intervals, and turtles are later released into coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) or the Northwest Atlantic Ocean (NWAO). In 2013, the IUCN Species Survival Commission defined conservation translocation as the deliberate movement of organisms from one site for release in another, with the intention that it must yield a measurable conservation benefit at the levels of a population, species or ecosystem, and not only provide benefit to translocated individuals. Translocations of Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles that are found injured, ill, or otherwise debilitated, then rescued, resuscitated if necessary, rehabilitated, and released into the GoM or the NWAO have not been evaluated to determine whether they qualify as conservation translocations. We refer to them as rescue, resuscitation, rehabilitation, and release (i.e., RRRR) translocations. Captivity and human care, by altering behavioral and physiological fitness of RRRR translocated Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, have the potential to influence post-release survival, growth, navigation, foraging, migration, maturation, natal beach homing, and reproduction. We recommend that NMFS and USFWS develop a plan for hypothesis-driven research and modeling aimed at determining if and how RRRR translocations contribute to Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle population recovery. Similar evaluations of RRRR translocations are also needed for other sea turtle species.






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