Rehabbed turtles return to sea at Folly

Flounder is one of two rare Kemp’s ridley turtles to be returned to the ocean Friday at Folly Beach County Park.

FOLLY BEACH — Flounder and Apache bolted off and swam like crazy. They might as well have been two more kids at the beach.

Two rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were released to the sea Friday after treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium to the cheers of the usual crowd. They are the rarest and most imperiled of the seven sea turtle species, all of which are considered threatened or endangered. Flounder and Apache each had been hooked by recreational anglers at a Myrtle Beach pier. Apache had swallowed its hook. The hook had to be removed from Flounder’s esophagus.

With the releases, the number of turtles successfully treated at the aquarium’s facility and returned to the ocean climbed to 195 in 16 years. In that time, the dune-nesting turtles, primarily the loggerhead, have become beloved ambassadors of the coast. When an injured turtle is released after treatment at the aquarium, hundreds of people crowd the beach to watch.

The facility has been operating at capacity and injured or sick turtles keep arriving as the nesting season begins to wind down. A $5 million expansion of the facility is underway on the aquarium’s main floor and will have visitor observation windows and access.

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