Featured Image Credit: Brad Nettles/ Post and Courier
By Alice Morris
The South Carolina Aquarium released four rehabilitated turtles back into the wild last Tuesday, their final public beach release of 2017. Spectators gathered for the event at the Isle Palms County Park. The release marked the aquarium’s 240th successful rehabilitation in 10 years.
Around 250 spectators cheered as they watched three loggerheads and one Kemp’s Ridley turtle make their way back into the sea. Hank, a 63-pound loggerhead, was one of the lucky turtles returning home. He was admitted to the center on May 5, showing symptoms of debilitated turtle syndrome, a disease that primarily affects juvenile loggerheads.
The other three sea turtles were suffering from physical injuries. One had a shark bite and another was injured by a fisherman’s hook.
The Care Center at the aquarium admitted 38 sea turtles this year, and more could still be rescued before the end of 2017.
“I would say this is, overall, the year of boat strikes,” said Willow Melamet, the Care Center’s manager. “We’ve had a lot of boat-strike injuries… ones that are either old injuries that they healed from or fresh strikes. And really, we’re treating a lot more trauma cases than we have in the previous years.”
Sea turtles continue to be released during colder months, but aquarium volunteers must bring them as far as 60 miles offshore to release them into the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream.
You can read more about the S.C. Aquarium’s rescue efforts here.