Seven of the most endangered sea turtle species rehabilitated at the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program are ready to hit the open ocean again.
The turtles will be released into the Atlanta Ocean at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Beachwalker County Park on Kiawah Island. The public is invited.
The release is being held in partnership with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. Attendees should plan to carpool, arrive early and expect to pay for parking at the county park.
Five turtles named Cape Cod, Saint, Turbo, Crowe and Davis — all Kemp’s ridley sea turtles — were flown to Charleston in December courtesy of Davis Air Inc. based out of Charleston.
All were part of a massive cold stunning event near Cape Cod, Mass., which caused more than 230 sea turtles to strand. This group of turtles came to the S.C. Aquarium to free up space for the New England Aquarium as part of an on-going partnership between the two facilities. Treatment included antibiotic and vitamin injections, fluid therapy, a healthy diet and regular physical examinations.
The other two turtles — Cheyenne and Wellfleet, also Kemp’s ridleys — were transported to the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital a month after the previous group. They were also found cold-stunned in New England and were flown to South Carolina on a separate flight donated by pilot Michael Taylor. Treatment included antibiotic and vitamin injections, fluid therapy, a healthy diet and some TLC.
When sea turtles are exposed to cold water temperatures for long periods of time, they undergo a hypothermic reaction. Symptoms of that reaction include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation and lethargy, which may be followed by shock, pneumonia and, in the worst case scenarios, death.
Sea turtles are affected by cold stunning because they are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature. In cold weather, they don’t have the ability to warm themselves and typically migrate to warmer waters around the end of October.
The average cost for each patient’s treatment is $36 a day with the average length of stay reaching nine months.
To help care for sea turtles in recovery at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, go to www.scaquarium.org and make a donation. While online, visit the Sea Turtle Hospital’s blog at http://seaturtlehospital.blogspot.com/ to track the progress of patients currently being cared for at the hospital. Behind-the-scenes tours of the hospital are also offered.