Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Beautiful Day for a Sea Turtle Release

On this sparkling summer day, the New England Aquarium rescue team released two of the world’s most endangered sea turtles from a Martha’s Vineyard beach amid a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. The young Kemp’s ridleys are among the last to be released of the record 242 live sea turtles that washed up last November and December with hypothermia.

Just moments from its release into the ocean, bystanders got a good look at the turtle's satellite tag. 

Each of the sea turtles will be outfitted with a satellite tag, which is harmlessly glued to its shell. These small, plastic electronic devices with an antenna are sophisticated marine research tools, combining GPS capability with the ability to log dive depths and lengths as well as water temperature. This data can be transmitted to an overhead satellite when the turtle comes to the surface to take a breath. Satellite tags can last from several months to a year before they fall off. They allow biologists to see the detail of how these sea turtles use their habitat as they migrate up and down the East Coast.

A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Frank Hardy swims in a rehab pool after having a satellite tag attached to  his shell. 

An interesting side note: Each year, the Aquarium’s rescue biologists select a theme from which to name their long term patients. This year’s theme was crime fiction characters. So some of this year's patients included Frank Hardy and Benton Wesley.

Most of this year's crime fiction gurus/patients were released in the warm waters of southern states in the late winter and spring. But the pair just released had very complex and chronic medical conditions beyond their hypothermia including pneumonia, blood chemistry imbalances, kidney failure, fractures and emaciation. New England Aquarium veterinarians and biologists worked with these sea turtles for eight months to prepare them for return to the wild and the goal of helping to rebuild these endangered populations.

A second Kemp’s named Benton Wesley is in the process of having his satellite tag glued on by biologists. The data collected will be highly valuable to researchers and marine wildlife managers. 

The release happened at the Long Point Wildlife Refuge, a Trustees of Reservations property on the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard. Barbara Erickson, Trustees of Reservations President and CEO, said, “Long Point is a fitting spot for these endangered sea creatures to be safely released back into their natural habitat. With  more than 600 acres conserved, Long Point is one of the largest publicly accessible properties on Martha's Vineyard, it is also one of the most important wildlife habitats, featuring an expansive beach, dunes, and woodlands which serve as a protective barrier and buffer.”

More than a dozen Aquarium staff, volunteers and interns, who spent months nursing these creatures back to health, were on hand for the send-off. Many vacationing beach-goers also found themselves in the right place at the right time to witness this special event.

Learn more about this year's record cold stunning season: 

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