On Sunday, June 26, a group of rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were released into the Chesapeake Bay at Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Maryland. The public gathered on the beach to join in the festivities.
The turtles came to the National Aquarium in December from the New England Aquarium, after they were found stranded along Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Kemp’s ridley turtles are the most endangered and the smallest of all the sea turtle species, which makes them particularly vulnerable to severe changes in water temperature. They all suffered from cold stunning – the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia.
After 6 months of rehabilitation by The National Aquarium Animal Rescue team, the turtles, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Frosty, and Buddy(the elf), were nursed back to health and ready to be released back to the ocean. They all enjoyed a diet of capelin, shrimp, squid, and mussels at the National Aquarium and nearly doubled in body weight.
The turtles were outfitted with a satellite transmitter that allows us to track the location and speed of the turtles following the release. These tags help researchers learn more about sea turtle migration and travel patterns.
Since Kemp’s ridley sea turtles commonly utilize the Chesapeake Bay during the warm summer months to feed on an assortment of jellies and invertebrates, Aquarium officials felt this was the best time and location to release the turtles and to prepare for the possibility of new patients. The turtles are expected to stay in the Mid-Atlantic region or head north for the summer.
Oceana joined the Aquarium to help educate people on their save the sea turtles campaign, which is dedicated to the protection and restoration of sea turtle populations in the world’s oceans. The campaign works to reduce sea turtle bycatch in fisheries, protect sea turtle habitat and develop legislation to protect sea turtles. The National Aquarium and Oceana have similar goals; to protect and conserve sea turtle populations for future generations.
Many of National Aquarium Animal Rescue's patients are sick or injured due to human-related problems like boat strikes, gear entanglement or plastic ingestion. Weather, malnourishment, exhaustion and pollution also contribute to strandings.
Rescuing and studying stranded animals provides vital information about the status of the ocean and coastal environments, as well as the biology and health of the animals that live in those environments.
The public is invited to help with the National Aquarium’s marine animal rehabilitation efforts. Txt ACT to 20222 to make a $5 donation. Msg & data rates apply or visit aqua.org.
These turtles were the 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd, and 93rd animals released by the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program. Formed in 1991 and staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the Animal Rescue program has responded to hundreds of strandings, including seals, dolphins and endangered sea turtles, and to sightings of manatees, dolphins and other marine mammals.