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Return to the Sea

After rescue and recuperation, turtles released on World Sea ­Turtle Day

Kelsie Fronheiser releases a sea turtle into the waters off Assateague Island.

After seven months of swimming circles doing rehab in the pools at the National Aquarium, two juvenile green sea turtles have returned to the open wilds of the ocean, stronger and healthier.
    The duo swam into the waters off Assateague Island National Seashore on June 16. The date marked World Sea Turtle Day and coincided with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Turtle Week as well as the National Park Service’s centennial and the Aquarium’s Animal Care Center’s 25th anniversary.
    Hardhead and Beachcomber (all of the patients get nicknames) came to the center in November 2015. Hardhead was rescued on the coast of Delaware and transferred to the aquarium for long-term rehabilitation. He arrived with a low body temperature, broken ribs and a torn lung, which left him unable to swim.
    Beachcomber suffered a rare blood infection and kidney problems after being stranded along the coast of Cape Cod. Thanks to a round of antibiotics and assisted feeding, he has returned to eating on his own and is healthy enough to return to his natural habitat.
    “The triumph of returning a healthy animal to the wild is the reason we have such a devoted Animal Rescue team,” says Aquarium Rescue program manager Jennifer Dittmar. “The program is successful today with the help of our staff, volunteers and the good Samaritans who call in tips.”
    Ten rehabbed Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and National Marine Life Center animal rescue programs were also released. These turtles were among some 200 cold-stunned turtles that washed up on Cape Cod beaches this winter.
    Since 1991, the National Aquarium team has successfully rescued, treated and returned more than 160 animals to their natural habitats, primarily along the Maryland coastline.
    “Our sea turtle stranding and entanglement network partners improve the survival of not just these individual animals,” says NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Dave Gouveia. “They are making a big difference in the recovery of these threatened and endangered species as a whole, and to our understanding of the threats these species face.”