Authorized in 1962, Padre Island National Seashore is a very different kind of national park. This island on the Texas coast was designated a national park site to protect the longest barrier island in the world.
The park includes more than 70 miles of recreation, education, and conservation areas. The park hosts pristine beaches, dunes a coastal prairie and a world-renowned place to view birds.
But what the park is most famous for are the Oreo-cookie-sized visitors who hatch on its sand and then take their first trip back into the ocean — the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles. More than half a million visitors come to Padre Island each year looking for something you can’t find at most Texas beaches.
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Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles
The Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles are the most critically endangered sea turtle species in the world. The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve and protect for future generations. The efforts to increase the number of Kemp’s Ridley turtles is a perfect example of that.
Each summer an army of park staff and volunteers patrol the island’s beaches for nesting turtles. The eggs are gathered and then incubated safely indoors. Staff closely monitor the eggs and nurture the hatchlings. Then when the turtles are ready to return to the Gulf Of Mexico, the Park Staff place the hatchlings on the beach in the early morning hours just as the sun starts to rise.
The tiny turtles are placed on the beach to crawl down to the beach to swim through the currents and go free. Females the survive to adulthood return to nest proof that the project has made a difference.
“The numbers are better than what they were when I first started but there’s still a long way to go until we can say they’ve recovered the population,” said Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.
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