Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium Releases Nine Rehabilitated Sea Turtles

Todays News

Pictured: Mote's Jenna Rouse walks one of the nine turtles to the water in New Smryna. Courtesy of Mote Marine.

Nine juvenile rehabilitated Kemp's ridley sea turtles excitedly made it back to the wild on Monday, January 4. Since November 21, Mote Marine has received three separate groups of cold stun turtles, totaling over 20 turtles flown in for rehab from stranding in the Cape Cod region in November during a cold stun event. According to Mote, cold-blooded animals, such as sea turtles, are not able to regulate their body temperatures on their own. So when they find themselves in too-cold water, they become dangerously lethargic. This can be potentially fatal as their body functions slow down, leaving them susceptible to predators and boat strikes, allowing for algae to grow on their backs and more detrimental side effects.  

After being cleared for release from their two-month recovery, the nine turtles were given a last physical check and implanted with a PIT tag (passive integrated transponder). These small microchips function much like a pet microchip does, so the animals will be able to be identified if they strand again. Since the turtles originally stranded in the Atlantic Ocean, Mote's team of scientists and interns drove the turtles across the state for release on the east coast, in New Smyrna at Canaveral National Seashore. "It's always exciting when it's release day, because our goal is always to get these turtles back into the water as soon as we can," says Mote's Rehabilitation and Medical Care Coordinator Lynne Byrd. 

This species is considered endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources due to rising water temperatures, degradation of habitat and nesting areas and entanglement in marine debris. "Kemp's ridley sea turtles are among the rarest and most endangered of the seven species of sea turtle, so every turtle is very important to the population," says Byrd. "When we receive these cold stuns off the plane, they are in extremely critical condition, so it is rewarding to see them start to swim around and eat in the hospital, and it's so incredible to watch them zoom off as soon as we put them into the water. But we aren't done yet, as we have even more back at Mote that we're working to get healthy!" The third group of cold stun turtles that arrived at Mote on December 22 are still in critical condition and awaiting release back to the ocean. 

The nicknames of the nine turtles released were named after types of Christmas trees or Peanuts comic characters: Art, Canaan, Douglas, Fraser, Noble, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, and Charlie Brown. You can read more about each patient, and the other's remaining in Mote's care, at mote.org/hospital

Activities conducted under FWC Marine Turtle Permit MTP-20-126. 

Pictured: Mote's Jenna Rouse walks one of the nine turtles to the water in New Smryna. Courtesy of Mote Marine.

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