95% of the worldwide Kemp’s Ridley Turtles nest in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico on the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico

By the early 1960s, this species was on the brink of extinction because of their limited nesting range and the fact that they nested at day and were prized as both a food source and an aphrodisiac by the people of Mexico.  In 1966, conservation efforts for the Kemp’s Ridley were initiated on the beach near Rancho Nuevo in Tamaulipas, Mexico. This locale is the only place in the world where large nesting aggregations of this sea turtle were and are known to occur. From 1966 to 1987, conservation efforts focused on the area of Rancho Nuevo with one turtle protection camp. In 1978, the U.S. joined with Mexico at Rancho Nuevo in a bi-national effort to prevent the extinction of the Kemp’s Ridley. In 1988, this bi-national program expanded to the south and another camp was added. In 1989, a third camp was established when the program was expanded to the north of Rancho Nuevo. By 1997, a total of seven camps had been established along the Tamaulipas and Veracruz coasts to allow for increased nest protection efforts.

Dr. Pat Burchfield, now the Director of the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, was an early pioneer in efforts to protect the remaining turtles and develop the program that has brought them back from the brink.  In 2003, Jeffrey Boruff made his first trip to the camp at Rancho Nuevo with me and Dr. Burchfield.  From 2003 until his death in 2009, Jeff made many trips to help out at the turtle camps, becoming a familiar face to the staff.

Not surprisingly, Jeff made friends quickly and was well known for his broad smile and infectious laugh.  He was invited back each Spring to labor alongside the Mexican scientists and staff.  He enthusiastically embraced the real spirit of conservation, and fell in love with the Mexican culture, history and people.  For him, the turtle camps became an extension of his life long passion for adventure.

Some of my fondest memories with Jeff are from our days at the turtle camps.  We often sat out at night on the beach and watched the stars to the sounds of oceans waves rolling ashore.  We laughed and shared stories with the locals about far ranging topics.  We drove the deserted beaches on four wheelers looking for turtles.  We went fishing on pristine beaches with no other people for miles in any direction.  We loved to watch the thunderstorms roll over the ocean, with beautiful lightening storms.  There was no electricity or running water at the camps in those days, but we always felt privileged to be close to nature.  Together we were always “loving the days”.

– Scott Boruff

For more information:

Entranced by Sea Turtles, by Scott Boruff, Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, October, 2004

Solving the Ridley Riddle, by Mary-Love Bigony, Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, March, 2004

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Plan, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) Fact Sheet, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Federal Protection Status – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Tortuga Lora