Flagler Beach, FL

10 Critically Endangered Sea Turtles Rescued & Released Back Into the Ocean From Florida Beach [VIDEOS]

Uncovering Florida

Staff work together to release 10 critically endangered sea turtles back into the ocean after month's long rehabilitation efforts; 2023Photo byClearwater Marine Aquarium | Press Release

On Tuesday, March 7 at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area on Flagler Beach, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) released 10 critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles back into Atlantic waters after receiving clean bills of health from the aquarium's veterinary team.

The sea turtles were transferred by plane from the New England Aquarium and National Marine Life Center on December 13 of 2022 to receive long-term critical care at CMA. They endured nearly three months of rehabilitation following a cold-stun event in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, that resulted in the stranding of hundreds of sea turtles.

Now, they swim healthy and free in the Florida deep.

After getting their green light for release, they were carted to Flagler Beach to ensure they made their way back into the same body of water they were rescued from, but at the Sunshine State's much warmer temperatures.

Video footage of staff carefully holding and releasing their turtle patients was captured and shared to Youtube, commemorating the exciting moment for conservation, rescue, and rehabilitation.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is proud to be a leader in marine animal rescue, rehabilitation and release,” said Chief Executive Officer of CMA, Joe Handy.

“We are relentless in our mission to save critically endangered species," Handy continued. "It’s critical that we share the extraordinary work we do with our community, and how it impacts the world’s oceans. Our talented and dedicated veterinary, animal care and rescue staff work tirelessly to care for at-risk marine animals from around the country and close to home."

Video footage of their arrival by plane in December was also captured and shared to Youtube's platform. Viewers can see just how much they've grown and healed in their nearly 3-month stay with CMA.

The video also details the process of their arrival, as well as what cold stunning is. The treatment details page on CMA's website featuring the clip also introduces the public to their names. Each turtle donning a moniker after national parks, including Yellowstone, Isle Royale, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Joshua Tree, Redwood, Zion, Sequoia, Smoky, and Teton.

Like all reptiles, sea turtles are cold-blooded and cannot self-regulate their body temperature. They acclimate to their environments and heavily rely on being able to move to an area that allows their internal systems to maintain a safe temperature that keeps them functioning properly.

Cold Stunning happens when cold-blooded animals suffer from hypothermia as a result temperatures plummeting below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. At decreased and severely cold temperatures, sea turtles experience decreased circulation rendering them lethargic and sometimes completely unable to eat and metabolize food, swim, or even move at all.

“Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are the world’s most endangered and rarest species of sea turtle,” said Dr. Shelly Marquardt, veterinarian for CMA. “The opportunity to care for and successfully return to the wild an entire group of 10 is inspirational for our hospital and animal care staff and volunteers.”

Kemp's Ridley sea turtles call the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast along the U.S. Eastern seaboard their home. These unique sea turtles gather offshore and swim in groups together called "arribadas", translating to arrivals in Spanish, making nesting on beaches a family affair.

According to CMA, a large majority of Kemp's Ridley Nesting — more than 95% — takes place in Tamaulipas Mexico. Illegal harvesting of their eggs caused a significant dwindling in population through the 1980s, but intensive conservation efforts nearly eliminated this as a threat. They face a predominant threat of bycatching in commercial and recreational fishing gear today.

As a working marine animal hospital, CMA specializes in providing care to marine animals, with a focus on recovery and rehabilitation. All animals are given thorough check-ups before being released back into the wild, or providing a forever home to those with physical limitations that prevents them from being able to survive the wild on their own.

To date, CMA has rescued more than 1,600 sea turtles since efforts began in 2010.

Additional details on the turtles’ care may be viewed on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's website here.

Article by Rachael Volpe

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