Six Endangered Sea Turtles Returned Home!

Kemp's ridley sea turtle

Although they will be missed by the dedicated staff and volunteers here at the National Marine Life Center, we are happy to announce that in the first release of the season six of the 30 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that were in our care were released on January 26th, 2017!

Menace being released at Anastasia State Park in Florida.
Menace #55 being released at Anastasia State Park in Florida.

On January 24, the six Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were driven to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to spend the night before continuing on their journey home. From there, the journey continued down the east coast as they were driven to Anastasia State Park in Florida. On the evening of the 26th the patients finally arrived and were released alongside 11 other Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and four green sea turtles who were either rehabbed at the National Aquarium or the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the most endangered sea turtle species in the world with only an estimated 1,000 nesting females left. The rehabilitation of these sea turtles is vital to their species survival. Five of the six sea turtles that were released last month were among the lucky few that were rescued by Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary after stranding on the beaches of Cape Cod during the past 2016-2017 cold stunning stranding season. When a sea turtle becomes “cold stunned,” it means it is having a hypothermic reaction from being exposed to cold water temperatures for too long. These are usually the sea turtles that did not start their migration south soon enough when the waters off Cape Cod began to get cold. Sea turtles are cold blooded and need external heat sources to regulate their body temperature to keep them warm. They are unable to maintain their body temperatures in  cold water so their heart rate slows down and cause them to become lethargic, suffer from pneumonia, and shock. After being found these individuals were brought to the New England Aquarium in Boston for triage care before starting their rehabilitation process here at the National Marine Life Center.

Nicky (#48) using a float with his pal Jedi using a float to aid in their recovery. 
Nicky (#48) using a float with his pal Jedi to aid in their recovery.

The sixth sea turtle that was released was a long time patient name Nicky who had stranded in the 2015-2016 cold stunning season on Ellis Landing Beach in Brewster. Nicky had been here at the National Marine Life Center for an extended stay of 13 months. He was originally admitted in December of 2015 weighing only 2.4 kg. Through the hard work of the staff and volunteers, Nicky was rehabilitated for osteolysis in his flipper joints. This unfortunately made it very painful for him to swim normally and prevented him from using his flippers properly while he was recovering. After 13 months, Nicky now weighs 4.7 kg, has full movement in all four flippers, and was able to released alongside our other turtles.

Cam Newton #56 during his pre-release exam.
Cam Newton #56 during his pre-release exam.

We wish Nicky (#48), Maxtoby (#42), Menace (#55) named after the Wags and Menace Make a Difference Foundation who was generous enough to award NMLC a grant to use towards sea turtle rehabilitation, Cam Newton (#56), Beaker (#58), and Laurel (#61) the best of luck back out there in their ocean home!

We still have 24 sea turtles at our center being cared for daily who will all hopefully be joining their friends in the wild as soon as possible. To adopt one of our sea turtle patients and support their recovery click here!


Posted by Sara S.
Sara is a 2016-2017 AmeriCorps Placement at the National Marine Life Center. She recently graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY with a degree in Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation.