CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD)- The South Carolina Aquarium released four rehabilitated green sea turtles into the salt marsh this week just ahead of World Sea Turtle Day.
Members of the Sea Turtle Care Center team were joined by volunteers from Coastal Expeditions on Tuesday to release the four turtles — Karina, Orion, Fea, and Muenster — by boat into the marsh surrounding Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge near Awendaw.
While green sea turtles typically nest on beaches in Costa Rica, and south/central Florida, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources notes that juveniles are found in shallow creeks, bays, and salt marshes in South Carolina.
Karina and Orion arrived at the Aquarium in December suffering from cold-stunning conditions, officials said.
According to NOAA Fisheries, sea turtles are unable to regulate their body temperatures, so cold-stunning can occur when they are exposed to a rapid change in temperature in their surrounding environment. The condition can cause hypothermia, lethargy, and an increased risk of secondary health problems.
Feta — found by a beachgoer on Sullivan’s Island — came to the care center in the spring with eye ulcers, a heavy load of barnacles, and predator injuries on their shell.
Muenster was found washed ashore on Fripp Island, S.C. with similar problems as Feta in addition to buoyancy issues. Muenster recovered quickly and was cleared for release in just three months, according to officials.
“It’s always an exciting day when we can release rehabilitated sea turtles back into the wild, and we’re so grateful for the many hands that help us along the way,” Melissa Ranly, Sea Turtle Care Center manager said. “Every species of sea turtle is either threatened or endangered, so they need all the support they can get from us! Through every step of their journey – from rescue through rehabilitation and ultimately, their release – there’s a network of sea turtle conservationists working to save this sentinel species.”
The Sea Turtle Care Center at the SC Aquarium has successfully rehabilitated and released 385 sick or injured turtles since its inception. To learn more about the center, click here.
If you find a sick, injured, or dead sea turtle on the beach, contact the SCDNR hotline at 1(800) 922-5431.