Endangered sea turtles released
Turtles go free near Marco due to ...
Coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
MARCO ISLAND — Seven endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles got a new start in the waters south of Marco Island after being relocated from Mississippi.
SeaWorld Orlando and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set out from Calusa Island Marina in Goodland on Thursday to release the turtles, which were being rehabilitated in Mississippi for injuries related to fishing hooks and lines. FWC released two of the turtles.
Authorities decided it was better to release them in Southwest Florida because the waters around Mississippi are being impacted by the BP oil spill.
The group picked Gullivan Bay, south of Marco Island for the release because the area is a natural habitat for Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.
“These particular sea turtles are very strong, very feisty,” said Dan Conklin, aquarium supervisor at Seaworld. “The research indicates Kemp’s Ridleys of this size do live in this area.”
The release was a joint effort between SeaWorld, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
About 20 people showed up at Calusa Island Marina to get a glimpse of the juvenile turtles. The small crowd surrounded SeaWorld officials as they brought two of the turtles out for viewing.
Brandon Donnelly, 10, visiting from Connecticut, got to touch a turtle for the first time in his life and found the way it felt hard to describe.
“It was hard and fleshy,” he said.
A total of nine turtles have been in the care of SeaWorld veterinarians for two weeks since their arrival from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., where they were being treated.
Four of the turtles will remain at SeaWorld’s Animal Rehabilitation Center for further treatment before they are released.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are also among the most endangered sea turtles, according to Rhonda Bailey, a coordinator for the sea turtle stranding and salvage network for FWC.
Officials are unsure if the turtles will naturally try to make their way back to Mississippi.
“It is possible they could go home,” Bailey said. “You can’t really make a turtle do something he doesn’t want to do.”