Corpus Christi, TX – On Friday, August 17, nine rescued sea turtles representing four species were returned to their natural habitat in the Gulf of Mexico by the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center. This offshore release of young sea turtles was made possible through the Aquarium’s ongoing partnership with the Padre Island Seashore Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery as well as the direct participation of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, which provided a boat and a game warden to assist with transport and logistics.
The nine sea turtles ranged in age from around one to four years old and included loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, species that are endangered or threatened in the wild. These sea turtles were found in the spring stranded on nearby beaches from various injuries and illnesses, including missing flippers and dehydration. They were admitted to the Wildlife Rescue Center where staff treated their wounds, placed them in water systems and monitored them around the clock. When each sea turtle showed signs it could eat and swim on its own this month, staff began preparations to reintroduce them to their natural habitat.
To get these sea turtles back on track, though, it would take more than simply releasing them at a local coastline. In the first few years of life, most sea turtle species make their way to deeper waters, where they take shelter in floating sargassum, a type of seaweed. In order to place the sea turtles in this type of habitat and give them the best chance of survival, the Wildlife Rescue Center carefully coordinated an offshore release, taking into account tidal patterns and other conditions of the local ecosystem. Using a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department boat, the sea turtles were transported approximately 10 miles offshore and released into a habitat with plenty of saragassum and other conditions ideal for growing sea turtles.
“This recent release of sea turtles represents another major milestone for our expanding Wildlife Rescue Center” said Jesse Gilbert, Senior VP and COO at the Aquarium. “This is the first time we’ve released four different species at the same time, and one of the few offshore releases we’ve participated in during the past few years. We’re grateful to our conservation partners at Padre Island National Seashore, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and others for their assistance, and with their support and that of our community, we hope to rescue countless more sea turtles in the years to come.”
Since the Texas State Aquarium first began rescuing ill and injured wildlife in 1995, it’s treated thousands of ill and injured wildlife, primarily shorebirds and raptors with the occasional sea turtle and marine mammal patient. Since late 2017, the Texas State Aquarium has seen a significant increase in sea turtle patients, mostly treating green sea turtles affected by cold-stunning. In January and February 2018, Wildlife Rescue treated and released more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles. Guest admission and memberships help support these rescue efforts along with generous donations.
To learn more about the Texas State Aquarium’s sea turtle rescue efforts, visit www.texasstateaquarium.org/turtlerescue.