NC Aquarium Sends Recovered Turtles Back to Sea
Pine Knoll Shores, NC Feb. 18, 2013 – The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores bid bon voyage to 21 sea turtles Friday as they headed back to their ocean home. They had been under the Aquarium’s care for several weeks after suffering a potentially fatal condition known as cold-stunning from winter weather.
The U.S. Coast Guard gave the animals a ride away from the chilly coastline to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, 50 or so miles offshore. Because reptiles are cold-blooded, many sea turtles naturally head that way or migrate south when the seasons change locally. Those that stay behind risk cold-stunning, similar to hypothermia in humans.
Most of the turtles were young green turtles brought to the Aquarium after their rescue off Cape Lookout in January. Two green turtles and two Kemp’s ridleys that had been found along the Outer Banks also left Pine Knoll Shores for the ocean. Typical of cold-stunned animals, the turtles were listless upon arrival at the Aquarium. They quickly responded to medical treatment, nutritious food and expert care.
This success story didn’t end when the turtles went overboard Friday. One of the larger green turtles is tagged with satellite transmitter so researchers and the public can follow its movements. Look for a link to the tracking website on the Aquarium’
The Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and the other state Aquariums at Fort Fisher and on Roanoke Island are among facilities that have worked with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to care for an unusually large number of cold-stunned turtles this winter. Turtles that had recovered at the other two Aquariums, plus some from South Carolina and Virginia, brought the total of turtles in the release effort to nearly 40.
Coast Guard vessels based at Ft. Macon are large enough to accommodate the many bulky bins necessary to transport the turtles. The Coast Guard often works with the NCWRC to incorporate offshore turtle releases into its missions. The turtles went out Friday on a 47-foot motor lifeboat.
Sea turtles are protected by federal law. NCWRC coordinates sea turtle rescues, rehabilitation and releases and monitors nesting and hatching activity in the state. If you come across a stranded sea turtle, dead or alive, call NCWRC at 252-241-7367 or 252-728-1528.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is five miles west of Atlantic Beach at 1 Roosevelt Blvd., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512. The Aquarium is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $8 for ages 13-61; $7 for ages 62 and up; $6 for ages 3-12; no charge for ages 2 and under and North Carolina Aquarium Society members. For more information, see www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores or call 252-247-4003.