There are 5 species of sea turtles inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico, all of which are considered to be either threatened or endangered. They include the Kemp’s ridley, green, leatherback, Atlantic hawksbill, and loggerhead sea turtles.
Some of the threats sea turtles face in the Gulf are:
Entanglement in recreational fishing line, commercial fishing nets and recreational hooks
Development of beaches and light pollution
Sea turtle populations are slowly recovering thanks to the collaborative effort of scientists, non-profits, universities, grass roots organizations and many dedicated people. The Houston Zoo has treated over 200 sea turtles since 2010 in our veterinary clinic, which are then brought to the sea turtle barn in Galveston to prepare for reintroduction. You may also catch a glimpse of a recovering sea turtle at the Zoo in the Kipp Aquarium.
We also assist by:
Holding sea turtle events on Zoo grounds to increase awareness about sea turtles
Educating teachers and students about sea turtle conservation efforts in Texas
Partially funding and designing sea turtle awareness signs that are posted on Galveston beaches.
Participating in weekly beach surveys to look for stranded or nesting sea turtles.
Supporting partial funding and construction of monofilament (fishing line) recycling bins to decrease the occurrences of sea turtle entanglement.
Funding nesting patrol seasons
Sea Turtle Success
In 2013, we rehabilitated 24 sea turtles and put up 100 new sea turtle awareness signs on Galveston beaches – designed by our amazing graphics team! The Houston Zoo also assisted in 2 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle beach releases as seen below.
How You Can Help
Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 if you see a sea turtle on the beach, or if you see sea turtle tracks on the beach that run from the water to the dunes – if the turtle has finished nesting, there will be another set of tracks running back to the water. Tracks for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles will be drags about 2 ft in diameter, and you should see marks from their flippers and flipper claw.
Be a hero; reduce your use of plastic!
Use biodegradable garbage and doggie bags, they break down naturally and don’t leave harmful chemicals behind!
Use a canvas bag whenever you shop, you can eliminate the use of 1,000 plastic bags! The canvas bags seen here can be purchased at the Houston Zoo Gift Shop, with proceeds going towards sea turtle saving efforts!
Buy a reusable water bottle and you’ll never need to drink out of a plastic water bottle again!
Avoid party balloons if possible! When these items deflate they
often end up in the ocean and sea turtles may eat them thinking they are food.