Animal lovers are mourning the tragic loss of a critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle who died after becoming trapped in a barstool.
This week the South Walton Turtle Watch, a group of trained volunteers who locate and protect sea turtles and their nests in Florida, shared heartbreaking images showing the Kemp’s ridley trapped in the legs of the stool.
The sea turtle had been pulled from the water off Dune Allen Beach in the Gulf of Mexico by a resident, but was already dead by the time she was discovered.
Sharon Maxwell, the head of the turtle watch group, speculated that the barstool may have fallen from a boat or was lost from a beachside restaurant, but it’s another tragic reminder about how our actions are affecting sea turtles and other marine life.
“Normally they would perform a necropsy (to determine how the turtle died), but she was too far gone,” Maxwell told the Northwest Florida Daily News. “It’s really sad. There’s no way we can tell how or when she died. We hate it.”
It’s a tragic loss for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, who are now the rarest species of sea turtles in the world.
As recently as the late 1940s, more than 40,000 of these sea turtles were seen nesting on a single beach in Mexico, but their numbers have declined drastically over the years in large part due to over-harvesting of both turtles and their eggs. By the mid-1980s, there were only 702 nests counted.
These sea turtles are now protected as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but they’re still listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. While a bi-national recovery effort between the U.S. and Mexico has helped them rebound some in Gulf of Mexico, the only place they nest, there are still now only believed to be a few hundred nesting females left in existence.
While some threats to their nests have been mitigated, they’re still in danger of being entangled in fishing gear, killed as bycatch, harassed by beachgoers, and continue to suffer as a result of development and encounters with our waste.
Unfortunately, this case involving a barstool isn’t an isolated incident. Last month, another Kemp’s ridley was found dead in Alabama after having become entangled in a beach chair.
Now, the South Walton Turtle Watch and other groups are encouraging people to make sure they take everything with them when leaving beaches to prevent incidents like this from happening.
Maxwell added that she and other volunteers walk the beach every morning to look for new nests and often find trash, chairs, tents and other beach items that have been left behind overnight, which can injure or entrap sea turtles, or force them to turn around if they can’t get to a safe place to nest.
Hopefully these incidents will help inspire people to be more mindful of leaving no trace.