Featured Image Credit: Margaret Haberman | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Laura Todd, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife field supervisor in Newport, has helped rescue 45 sea turtles over the years, however, she had never actually witnessed one released back to sea! But that changed earlier this week.
“After seeing them looking dead, with sunken eyes and very dark skin, then transform to very colorful and active … I can’t wait to see it,” she said. “Everybody has a reaction to turtles. People are just amazed by how gentle and large and ancient they are. It’s just amazing to see a turtle in their natural environment.”
All three of the rescued sea turtles, named Solstice, Lightning, and Tucker, were rehabilitated at SeaWorld in San Diego. Before there, they were at the Newport Aquarium but needed more care. Solstice was rescued on Dec. 22, 2014, in Long Beach, Wash. Lightning washed ashore near Pacific City during an unusual series of winter thunderstorms on Dec. 10, 2015. Tucker was found near Cannon Beach during the same month and was sent to SeaWorld due to no space in the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
These turtles had some pretty serious injuries and illnesses. Solstice was very sick and was almost considered unreleasable. Lightning was battered when they found her with her pelvic girdle, pectoral girdle, the base of the skull, and one of her fins were broken. Tucker was also very ill and turned an odd white color.
All three turtles are olive ridley turtles, which are listed as an endangered species. These are the smallest sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean and can be found in tropical and subtropical areas. Warm water is where they thrive and they usually don’t go much further than southern California.
When sea turtles become ill they get stranded or fall into cold water. They show up on the beaches due to injury or illness. Recovery of the turtles becomes difficult because they are a cold-blooded species and turn hypothermic before being saved, according to Jim Burke, director of animal husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The release crew (Todd and SeaWorld staff) took the turtles on a rescue boat earlier this week and sent them home! Now that the turtles have been released, they will continue to monitor the movements for about six months.
Monitoring the behavior is important because it will help staff observe the turtles and make sure they are thriving in their new environment.
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