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Bon voyage, six Kemp’s ridleys

Special to the Times
The Apalach Times

Six of the rarest species of sea turtle, and one that is critically endangered, have returned to the water via St. George island.

The Gulf World Marine Institute released six Kemp’s ridley sea turtles into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning, Jan. 16 at Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park.

In Nov. 2018, the institute received 30 sea turtles from New England Aquarium. The sea turtles were flown by private plane from Quincy, Massachusetts to Panama City Beach, where they were immediately transported to Gulf World for continued rehabilitation.

During cold snaps, sea turtles can become cold-stunned (or shocked) by the frigid temperatures in shallows bays and estuaries below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to the large number of stranded turtles in New England, the New England Aquarium reached out to other members of the stranding network for assistance. The six Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have been medically cleared by Gulf World veterinary staff and cleared for release by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The public gathered at the first large public pavilion to witness the turtle release.

Gulf World thanked Turtles Fly Too for coordinating the flight and pilots Ken and Kristi Andrews for generously donating their time for this mission. The institute also thanked Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries, New England Aquarium, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, GWMI staff and all volunteers that worked together to make this possible.