For the first time, the world’s rarest species of sea turtle has laid eggs on Magnolia Beach in Texas, experts say.

On Monday morning, R.J. Shelly, a Calhoun County Marine Extension Agent, received a call from the county commissioner after maintenance workers noticed sea turtles hatching from a nest on the beach. They were headed towards a road, not the water.

Shelly sent pictures of the hatchlings to Pamela Plotkin, director of the Sea Grant at Texas A&M University and a marine scientist specializing in sea turtles. Plotkin identified the baby turtles as Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the smallest and most endangered sea turtles in the world.

Both Shelly and Plotkin were thrilled by the discovery.

“As far as we know, there’s never been a Kemp’s ridley nest on Magnolia Beach, ever,” Shelly told CNN.

He says that when he arrived, he found a small depression in the sand. Over the phone, Plotkin suggested he help excavate the nest.

“So I kind of got down on my hands and knees and I real gently brushed a little bit of sand back and then — lo and behold, there’s an egg, there’s one hatching,” he said. “We watched several of the turtles hatch in front of our eyes.”

Shelly spent around four hours assisting the hatchlings, making sure they got to the water instead of the dangerous road nearby. He estimated that between 40 and 50 sea turtle hatchlings made it to the water from the nest.

“I’ve been working on the bay for 31 years, and I’ve never seen a sea turtle nest hatch,” said Shelly. “Normally, a person would never get an opportunity to hold a sea turtle hatchling, but because of the danger of the roadway being so close, and the fact that these are critically endangered, the decision was made.”

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