More than 150 Sea Turtles Released as South Carolina Aquarium’s Celebrates 15th Anniversary

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Six Sea Turtles Set to Return to the Atlantic Ocean February 10

South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program

It has been a busy 15 years for the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program; tomorrow marks the 151st sea turtle to be released by the Aquarium’s cornerstone conservation program. Six sea turtles including five Kemp’s ridleys and one green sea turtle will be released back into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Canaveral National Seashore, Fla. Members from the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Team will drive the turtles to Florida where water temperatures and habitat are suitable for the juvenile threatened and endangered species.

The turtles were all part of a massive cold-stun event along the New England coast in November. They were flown aboard a private flight to Charleston generously donated by Will and Margie Dorminy, Charleston locals and owners of Southern Eagle Distributing.

The community is encouraged to help the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program celebrate this milestone by sending goodbyes to the turtles and sharing their sea turtle stories. Click here to send well wishes to the sea turtles.

More about the turtles:
Boston, Cole, Dorminy, Eagle and Orleans: These five juvenile sea turtles, all Kemp’s ridleys, the most endangered sea turtle species, were transferred to the South Carolina Aquarium from the New England Aquarium in Boston in late November. They were part of more than 1,000 sea turtles found near death from hypothermia along the beaches and near shore waters of Massachusetts. The turtles were treated with fluids, antibiotics, and vitamin injections, and after two months of care, the group is ready to be released in the warm waters off of the Florida coast.

Chiquita: Chiquita, a six-pound juvenile green sea turtle, was also part of the cold-stunning event in New England and arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium with the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. After admission into the Aquarium, Chiquita remained lethargic for quite a while, only surfacing to breathe. Chiquita refused to eat lettuce or fish offered to her by staff or volunteers. Finally, after weeks of vitamin injections, fluids, and TLC, Chiquita began to eat and display behavior indicative of a normal green sea turtle. Chiquita is now back to full health and ready to once again swim the open ocean.

More about cold-stunning:
Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Typically, sea turtles migrate to warmer waters in the fall but if they don’t make the migration before coastal water temperatures drop, they suffer from hypothermia, also known as cold-stunning. Symptoms of cold-stunning include a decreased heart and respiration rates, decreased circulation, and lethargy, all followed by shock, pneumonia and, in worst case scenarios, death.

15 years and 151 sea turtles released:
This year marks the South Carolina Aquarium’s 15th anniversary. Over the past 15 years more than 150 sea turtles have been rehabilitated and released by dedicated staff and volunteers in the Sea Turtle Hospital. As the Aquarium looks to the future, the organization plans to expand the Sea Turtle Hospital to the Aquarium’s main floor with an anticipated opening date in 2016. This project will significantly grow the capacity to rescue, rehabilitate, and release threatened and endangered sea turtles and expose all Aquarium guests to the rescue and rehabilitation of this species. For more information on the expansion and how to donate, click here.

What can you do?:
You can help threatened and endangered sea turtles. If you find a sick or injured sea turtle, contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) sea turtle hotline at (800) 922-5431. You may also help care for sea turtles in recovery in the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program by going to scaquarium.org and making a donation.

To track the progress of current patients in recovery, visit our Sea Turtle Rescue Program blog at scaquarium.org. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from the hospital, including public sea turtle release details.

Fast Facts:

  • Six sea turtles to return to the Atlantic Ocean February 10, 2015
  • The turtles will be released in the warm waters of Cape Canaveral National Seashore, Fla.
  • The community is encouraged to send well-wishes to these sea turtles
  • This release marks 151 threatened and endangered sea turtles rescued, rehabilitated, and released by the Sea Turtle Rescue Program
  • The public can visit current turtle patients by booking a Sea Turtle Hospital tour

For all media inquiries, please contact Kate Dittloff at (843) 579-8660 or kdittloff(at)scaquarium(dot)org

About the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program:
In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program works to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles that strand along the South Carolina coast. Located in the Aquarium, the Sea Turtle Hospital admits 20 to 30 sea turtles each year. Many of these animals are in critical condition and some are too sick to save.

According to SCDNR, during the past 10 years the average number of sea turtle standings on South Carolina beaches each year is 128. Of these, roughly 10 percent are alive and successfully transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital. To date, the South Carolina Aquarium has successfully rehabilitated and released 151 sea turtles and is currently treating 19 patients. The average cost for each patient’s treatment is $35 per day with the average length of stay reaching nine months.

About the South Carolina Aquarium:
The South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston’s most visited attraction, features thousands of amazing aquatic animals from river otters and sharks to loggerhead turtles in more than 60 exhibits representing the rich biodiversity of South Carolina from the mountains to the sea. Dedicated to promoting education and conservation, the Aquarium also presents fabulous views of Charleston harbor and interactive exhibits and programs for visitors of all ages.

The South Carolina Aquarium, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Aquarium is closed Thanksgiving Day, half day Dec. 24 (open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Dec. 25. Admission prices are: Toddlers (2 and under) free; Youth (3-12) $17.95; Adults (13+) $24.95. The Aquarium plus the 4-D Theater experience is free for Toddlers, $22.95 for Children, $29.95 for Adults. The 4-D Theater experience only is $6.95 for Children and Adults, and free for Members. For more information call 843-720-1990 or visit scaquarium.org. Memberships are available by calling 843-577-FISH.

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