Sunday, October 14, 2007

Everyone out of the pool

Beginning in the end of September 2007, on the eastern shores of north Florida, approximately 2,000 baby sea turtles began washing ashore. This week, 1,500 of them are getting a free ride out to sea again.

More than 80 percent of the rescued baby turtles came from Volusia County but others were brought in from Flagler, Brevard and St Johns counties. They were collected by lifeguards, beach-goers and members of the Volusia-Flagler Turtle Patrol and if they hadn't been rescued, their chances for survival would have been slim.

The babies who ranged from a week to several months old had been brought to the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, where the 3 to 5 inch long turtles inhabited plastic tubs and kiddie pools during their rehab. An estimated 500 died but the staff there stated that they were happy to see fewer die than they had expected, since most had arrived on the beaches exhausted.

Most of the baby turtles were green sea turtles and loggerhead sea turtles but three were critically endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles. That species lives primarily in the waters around Mexico but are occasionally seen in florida's waters. Two of the Kemp's Ridleys were due to be released with the other babies.

The little turtles were tucked into nine coolers and volunteers and Michael Brothers, manager of the Marine Science Center set off to return them to the sea. The plan was to head out about 20 miles from shore and search for clumps of sargassum, a common brown seaweed that the babies can use for shelter from predators and for food. After that, they will head off to the deeper parts of the ocean to spend their juvenile years growing, as evidenced by the new study that was released.

Nature pushed the turtles from the sea but through the help of concerned people, they will have another chance at surviving to adulthood and the possibility of continuing their species.

For a slideshow, go here.

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