It was a perfect evening for a turtle release. Ten sea turtles, 5 green sea turtles and 5 Kemp's ridleys, returned to the ocean after 9 months of rehabilition at our Animal Care Center in Quincy. The turtles, all named after astronomical terms, were placed in the water from a boat and swam off. With the full moon to the east and a beautiful sunset to the west, it was the perfect setting for these animals to return to their home.
Mark Leach, a lobsterman from Harwichport, donated his time and boat to us for the event. Mark has assisted the Aquarium with our leatherback sea turtle research over the past several years and was kind enough to lend a helping hand with this boat release. The above photo is Mark being interviewed about his support for the Aquarium while we headed out to the release site.
Mark's son, Sean Leach, also lent a helping hand last night. Sean guided the boat to the release site and helped us release the turtles. Above, Sean holds 'Luna', #16, before release. You may be wondering why we released from a boat this year, instead of off the beach like we normally do. The main reason is for concern about where the turtles end up. The past several years, the turtles we have satellite tagged have hugged the coast heading south and end up in Long Island Sound. The animals tend to stay in the sound longer than we would like, making us nervous they will not enter the Atlantic until the water is too cold and lead to another cold stunning event. We are hoping that taking them off shore for release will help them to bypass the opening to Long Island Sound as they head south.
It is amazing to see the difference between when a turtle arrives and when it is released. The above left photo is 'Libra' (#12), who stranded in early November with a large injury on his right flipper. After multiple debridements and antibiotics to cure the infection, 'Libra' was finally cleared for release. The picture on the right is Katie getting ready to release the turtle. No problems with the flipper now, as you can see he is moving it so fast that it is a blur in the photo.
Above left: Dennis Murley, a staff member from Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, holds 'Ganymede' (#100) who had significant carapace injuries. Katie and I also prepare for release, Katie with 'Libra' and I am holding 'Europa' (#96), a green sea turtle.
And off they go!
We also released Centaurus (#62), who you may remember from this post here. Centaurus had a large fracture in his carapace (which is why he was named after a black hole) that required surgery.
The above photo on the left is 'Centaurus' when he first arrived at the Animal Care Center. The photo on the right is after surgery to debride the wound and allow it to heal properly.
After many months of wound care and some special attention, look at Centaurus now! The fracture completely healed over and the turtle was ready to be released. Above left is the healed fracture. The above right photo shows Dennis releasing Centaurus back into the ocean.
Another special case we had was Saturn (#108). This turtle had severe pneumonia that required him to receive multiple CT scans and even a lung biopsy. Can you find the hole in his carapace where we had to drill to get access for the lung biopsy? It's hard to see now because it is healed, but it is the small white hole on the third left lateral scute in the above left photo. The photo on the right is Tony LaCasse, the Aquariums Media Relations Director, getting ready to release Saturn.
Above, Tony places 'Saturn' in the water and he swims away as fast as possible into the sunset!
Earlier in the day, we satellite tagged two of our green sea turtles. This will allow us to be able to track them and see where they go just like we did with Goose from the 2009 release (who is still transmitting by the way!).
Above, Ophelia (#24) on the left and Cassiopeia (#31), in the red box on the right, were fitted with satellite tags. We will be able to track them on seaturtle.org. We will keep you updated on their progress.
Above, Connie releases Ophelia. You can adopt Ophelia here to help support the satellite tracking program!
Above, I release Cassiopeia. You can adopt Cassiopeia here to help support the satellite tracking program!
The release team! From left to right top row: Sean Leach, Mark Leach, Tony LaCasse, Dennis Murley, Katie Pugliares, and Connie Merigo.
As you can see, we all had smiles glued to our faces. It was a very exciting evening to see these turtles be released after a long recovery. We hope releasing from the boat will allow the turtles to head south (or east to the Gulf Stream) safely. Keep an eye on seaturtle.org to see where they go. Today (not posted on the website yet), the tags showed one turtle went around Monomy and is to the east, and the other is slightly southwest of Monomoy. Check back for updates on these 2 green sea turtles and remember you can adopt them on seaturtle.org.
Thank you to the whole release team, especially Mark and Sean!