SeaWorld Orlando’s animal experts today returned 15 rehabilitated and now-healthy Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles to the wild. The highly endangered reptiles were released at Winterhaven Park in Ponce Inlet, Florida, near Daytona Beach.
In November, the turtles were rescued from the frigid waters of Cape Cod Bay and received treatment at the New England Aquarium for “cold stress,” extreme hypothermia, severe dehydration and pneumonia. In December, the US Coast Guard flew the turtles to Orlando so they could complete their rehabilitation at SeaWorld.
Temperatures in coastal waters – especially those in the northeast -- drop drastically when bitter winter weather rolls in, placing entire populations of sea turtles in danger. Cold-blooded animals, like the sea turtles cared for by SeaWorld, are stunned by the unusually cold water. In early 2010, SeaWorld experts rescued more than 500 cold-stressed sea turtles and released more than 400.
Today's release also was shown live to hundreds of school kids in Boston via a video feed. Beginning this week in Boston, SeaWorld's rescue and education teams from all three SeaWorld parks will share its rescue mission with young students around the country by introducing them to park animal ambassadors, including a rescued roseate spoonbill . The teams will also provide tips for the kids to share with their families on how together they can make a difference in the lives of animals through ordinary, everyday actions such as conserving water, picking up litter, properly disposing of fishing line and other trash and participating in local cleanups.
Brandon Davis is assistant supervisor of animal training for SeaWorld Orlando and will travel to four of the east coast markets. "Being able to connect school children with actual rescue stories and animals is some of the most rewarding work we do. If we can inspire them to do even small things at home, such as protect our water ways or build a backyard bird feeder, we are creating a bridge to a better future."
SeaWorld’s animal rescue team is on call 24/7 to care for orphaned, injured or sick animals. The team has rescued more than 18,000 animals since the rescue programs began 45 years ago.
Want to learn more about sea turtles? Go to http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/seaturtle/home.html
A Kemp's Ridley sea turtle before its release.
Above, Dan Conklin checks a sea turtle's "PIT" tag -- a microchip that allows each turtle to be identified if found.
This Kemp's Ridley has been tagged with unique numbers.
Two sea turtles about to go home.