8 rehabilitated turtles released on Kiawah Island

A Sea Turtle Rescue Volunteer Lisa Diamond releases a Kemp's ridley sea turtle named "Crowe" into the surf at Kiawah Island on June 18, 2013. Casey Toth/Staff

Casey Toth

After getting stuck in traffic, some slow-moving sea creatures made their way home Tuesday morning.

The Sea Turtle Hospital in the South Carolina Aquarium released eight sea turtles at Beachwalker County Park on Kiawah Island, letting loose one loggerhead turtle and seven Kemp’s ridley turtles.

Hundreds of people gathered on the beach behind a roped pathway to the sea, looking on as the hospital’s volunteers carried the turtles toward the tide.

The truck transporting the eight turtles to Kiawah Island was a bit delayed from the expected 10:30 a.m. release into the ocean because of traffic toward the island.

Shane Boylan, staff veterinarian at the aquarium, said the experience is gratifying, but he said he has many more waiting for him back at the aquarium needing rehabilitation.

“We have to go right back to work when we get back,” he said.

Kelly Thorvalson, manager of the sea turtle rescue program, shared Boylan’s joy in seeing the turtles return to the ocean.

“This is the day we all look forward to, and this is the reason why we’re here,” she said.

Thorvalson said other turtles in the Sea Turtle Hospital are close to having their clearance blood work and examinations performed, so another release may occur in the coming weeks.

Although the Sea Turtle Hospital team worked to keep a clear path for the turtles, some little ones, like 16-month-old Brooks King from James Island, were too excited. The toddler traipsed toward the turtle truck’s tailgate, hoping to get a better look.

“They’ve been talking about it all day,” Sarah King, his mother, said about Brooks and her 3-year-old son, Sullivan.

North Island, the loggerhead turtle, was found in a trawl capture near North Island eight months ago, undergoing treatment for stingray barb wounds.

The seven Kemp’s ridleys were victims of “cold-stunning,” a hypothermic reaction to lower water temperatures that leaves many sea turtles washed up on the beach. Private planes flew these turtles from the New England Aquarium to the South Carolina Aquarium in December and January for long-term treatment.

Reach Nick Watson at 937-4810.