2014 Turtles: The Glorious Finale

We made it to Georgia with our precious cargo, and as many as 400 or 500 people were lining the beach to watch these endangered sea turtles return to the ocean. Not surprisingly, there was great excitement and energy on the beach—a sunny culmination to all those months of rehabilitation during the cold and snowy winter in New England.

Parading the turtles so visitors can get a close-up look at these amazing animals

Dr. Norton and Michelle Kaylor of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center lead a parade of turtle carriers to the beach. The turtle handlers let visitors get a good look at the turtles, mostly Kemp's ridley and one green sea turtle.

Poised and ready

When it was time for the actual release, Dr. Norton counted down from ten for the turtle handlers to walk the turtles into the water. His counting was quickly overtaken by the 500 or so voices yelling out the count.  What a wonderful send-off for our patients!

A little thank you to the generous pilots that helped so many of our turtle patients travel to special rehabilitation
turtle hospitals during the thick of stranding season last fall. We could not have saved so many turtles without
the help of our partners!

In total 15 Kemp's ridley turtles from the New England Aquarium and one green turtle from the Georgia sea turtle center were released during this joint event. Other turtles were released later.

And they're off!

Good luck, turtles!

This video from the GA Sea Turtle Center's Facebook page has a cool aerial perspective of the event. Local and regional media was also on hand to film the release.

We managed to gather Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff and volunteers, New England Aquarium staff and vols and some Jekyll Island Authority staff who helped us with this event for one last picture. It's always inspiring to see so many people passionate about saving sea turtles.

2014 Turtles: The Trek Begins

After an epic sea turtle stranding season, most of our last few patients are ready to go home. The team packed up 24 turtles on Friday and drove them in style all the way to the warm beaches of Jekyll Island in Georgia. Here are a couple shots of the rescuers removing turtles from the pools at our Animal Care Center in Quincy on Friday.

Ready to go back to the ocean

Each turtle is given a check up before the trip

The turtles are slathered in an ointment to keep their skin moist while they're out of the water.
Each one is nestled into its own comfy box for the trip south.

See pictures of the inspiring release here!


2014 Turtles: To be Released this Weekend

In the next few days we will be releasing 24 turtles off the coast of Georgia this weekend.

Meet some of the lucky ones.

Great Horned Owl:

Above photos: These were taken about two weeks after the turtle was admitted. You can see the dead skin on the the head and flippers.

Above: Most of the skin has healed. Still a small granulated bit on the turtles rostrum. But, this turtle is ready to go back to the ocean!

Another turtle ready to go is Great Black Backed Gull:

 On the left is the intake pictures for the turtle. The right side is the turtle's release photos. Notice the turtle's shoulder and inguinal areas. This turtle has gained a good amount of weight.

We also have Great Blue Heron on the release list. The smallest turtle for this release.


You can really see the dramatic difference six months of rehabilitation has had on this turtle.

All of these turtles will be released this weekend. Stay tuned for release photos!



2014 Turtles: Six Months Later...

As the Rescue department gears up for bringing turtles south for release. I thought it would be interesting to show you some photos from the record smashing event and compare them to what it looks like in the hospital area today.


Above, our hallways lined with banana boxes of turtles. The picture on the left shows when the animals are being triaged after arriving from the Massachusetts Audubon at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The picture on the right shows the turtles lined up getting ready for a transport to another facility for continuation of care.

Today the hallways are clear of turtles.
Life in the rehab area has resumed its normal operations.

The above pictures give a rare peak at what it looks like when over 300 turtles are in the facility at one time. 
Normally (as seen here), we try to keep our turtle lanes to under six animals at any given time.

During the warming up process the turtles graduate through various phases of temperature controlled swimming. In the following pictures two of our patient overflow tanks are full of recovering turtles.

Turtles transitioning 

These systems are still in use but after the upcoming release they will be empty again.

Below: same systems as above. To the left is during the event. To the right is today.

Within the next few months hopefully all of our turtles will be released. The tanks will be emptied, cleaned and scrubbed. As we anticipate the next batch of cold-stunned sea turtles that will be needing rescue and rehabilitation come the fall.



Going bananas: Transporting turtles in style

A recent story about the colossal 2014 turtle season in blue, our members' magazine, mentioned that the Rescue Team uses banana boxes to transport their sea turtle patients. There wasn't space in the article to go into the back story of the boxes, but we wanted to offer some additional information to our blog readers.

Turtles in transport

When the turtles arrive, they are queued up
with their medical records. The window on the top of the box makes it easy to
ID the number on the shell of the turtle inside.

Turtles ready for the next leg of their journey

Our rescue partners at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay sanctuary are the ones who got us hooked on the banana boxes. They usually start stockpiling the boxes early in the fall so they have enough to transport each turtle to the Animal Care Center. This was the first year we helped acquire boxes since stores on the Cape were out because of the staggering number of stranded turtles.

Banana boxes stored and ready for transport.

There are several types of banana boxes but we primarily use Chiquita. Prior to transporting the turtles via plane, we provide the box measurements to the pilots. So that we know how many boxes will fit in the various planes that we use to transport turtles to rehab facilities up and down the East Coast. This year we ran into a problem with some other types of banana boxes getting in the mix. The measurements of the other brands' boxes were not quite the same as the Chiquita boxes.

A turtle loaded and secured onto a plane for transport. Photo: Cape Cod Times

When we pack up the turtles for transport, we make the banana boxes very cozy and safe. We put a liner in the box and provide a towel for padding. When appropriate, we also add heat packs approved for animal transports to the tops of the boxes and cover the heat packs with cotton towels to keep the warmth in.  It is important to note that the heat packs are secured to the top of the box so the turtle never comes in contact with the heat source. Our rehabbed turtles travel in style!

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