Michele Lamping, an aquarist at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, releases a sea turtle hatchling offshore Thursday.
The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores celebrated 18 success stories on Thursday as 18 sea turtles that would not have survived without help swam away into the deep. The Aquarium released the turtles 36 miles offshore, near the Gulf Stream’s warm waters. See more photos and video of the release on the Aquarium’s Facebook page.
Ten of the turtles are just a few weeks old. Left behind in nests that hatched out on area beaches, the weakened turtles, all loggerheads, were brought to the Aquarium for care until they were strong enough for release. The rest, ranging in age from one to five years old, arrived at the Aquarium under similar circumstances in past years. The Aquarium annually cares for dozens of hatchlings in need of assistance. Most are released within a few weeks. Some, like these, spend some time in educational programs and exhibits before heading to sea.
Six of the larger turtles are yearlings, all 2012 hatchlings from Emerald Isle. Two green turtles and a loggerhead spent the year at the Aquarium before Thursday’s release. Three more went to other aquariums to be part of their education programs on sea turtles – PPG Aquarium in Pittsburgh, Newport Aquarium in Kentucky and Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.
“This conservation and research project is a great example of the cooperation and teamwork between public aquariums that are members of and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA),” said Aquarium Director Allen Monroe. “By working with our national partners, we are able to find temporary homes for these sea turtles, where they can serve as ambassadors for their species and help educate visitors about their plight in the wild.”
PPG Aquarium also brought back for release a two-year-old loggerhead, a 2011 Emerald Isle hatchling. Virginia Living Museum returned a loggerhead, hatched five years ago on Atlantic Beach. Satellite transmitters were epoxied to the shells of these two older turtles, enabling the public as well as researchers to track their travels at seaturtle.org, a website dedicated to tracking aquatic wildlife. Find the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Sea Turtle Awareness project on the tracking section of the site. The most recently released turtles are listed as Abby and Carson. The other active tag listed belongs to Ghostbuster, so named because it survived a ghost crab attack as a hatchling. Ghostbuster’s tag has been transmitting almost a year.