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Endangered Sea Turtles Return Home

For one sea turtle injured by a fisherman’s hook and 25 cold-stunned (hypothermic) sea turtles that washed up on beaches from Massachusetts to Virginia, February 27 was a landmark day: They were ready to go home!
Close up of volunteer holding sea turtle View slideshow This turtle was one of the many that arrived onshore hypothermic and close to death. The work of dedicated volunteers and partner organization staff up and down the eastern seaboard returned them to health, and now back to the population. Kempsinbin_022717_Marsden_small.jpg bonvoyage_022717_marsden_small.jpg healthyreadytogo_022717_marsden_small.jpg releasedonbeach_022717_marsden_small.jpg seaturtlesarriving022817_Marsden_small.jpg staffholding_022717_marsden_small.jpg turtleinbananaboxpeeking_022717_marsden_small.jpg turtlesinbananaboxesontruck022717_marsden_small.jpg

The 25 cold-stunned turtles were rescued from cold and windy beaches in November and December. After triage by experienced sea turtle staff, they were transported to animal care centers for treatment and rehabilitation. Some travelled by car, going hundreds of miles inland to the Pittsburgh Zoo or south to New Jersey. Others caught rides on private aircraft with volunteer pilots to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

These turtles were some of the lucky ones. By late February, they were eating well and passed all their physical exams!

This release brought together 22 cold-stunned sea turtles from Cape Cod, including:

Two Kemp’s ridleys that stranded in New York (treated at the National Aquarium) and two Kemp’s ridleys found in Virginia (treated at the Virginia Aquarium), brought the total to 26 endangered sea turtles returned to the ocean.

Jennifer Dittmar, manager of animal rescue for the National Aquarium, worked with NOAA’s Kate Sampson and representatives from all of these organizations to coordinate the trip south. Dittmar led the long drive from Baltimore to Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine, Florida, with her passengers carefully packed in banana boxes and plastic bins with towels for cushioning.

After one last check, Dittmar and a team of animal care staff and volunteers released the turtles on the beach at approximately 4 pm.

This year’s stranding season was the third highest recorded, with 531 cold-stunned sea turtles washing up on beaches from Massachusetts to Virginia between October 20 and January 30. Of the 531, a total of 344 were alive at the time they were picked up from area beaches. Many of these are still being treated at sea turtle rehabilitation facilities along the East Coast.

All seven species of sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. Every sea turtle matters in the fight for population recovery.