Turtle release draws hundreds

By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS

February 19, 2015

Cars lined up to enter Isla Blanca Park on Sunday, Feb. 15 to attend a sea turtle release hosted by Sea Turtle, Inc. The release, likely be the last until April, included many turtles being returned to the Gulf after rehabilitation from conditions and injuries sustained during the colder winter months. With much fanfare, the Atlantic Green Sea Turtles arrived by police escort to a park flooded with visitors excited to witness the event.

The Sunday afternoon event brought in an estimated 1,000 attendees. Some spectators even waded out into the chilly water to get a better view. Thirty volunteers assisted with crowd control, showing off the turtles, and carrying them back out to the surf. With just a light mist, the weather was perfect for the release of the turtles, which totaled 19 in number. Numbering in the thousands locally, the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle is the most plentiful species found in the Laguna Madre, though they don’t nest in the area.  Of the 19 turtles released, 15 had been brought in for rehabilitation after being cold-stunned due to the sudden drop in the water temperature from the recent cold weather. The cold-stunned turtles experienced a form of hypothermia that causes temporary paralysis and danger of being caught by predators or being hit by fast-moving boats. The turtles were held until the weather was deemed appropriate to prevent a recurrence of the condition. The four remaining turtles were rehabilitated from other injuries and were also ready to be returned to the sea.

Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, who was better known as “The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.” The mission of the organization is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured sea turtles, educate the public, and assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species. Volunteer and Island resident Susan Gerry shared her feelings about the organization saying, “It’s exciting to be part of something so much bigger than us,” adding, “It’s very rewarding when we can rescue a sea turtle and rehabilitate it and send it back where it belongs.” Gerry shared that the organization is supported by the community and stated that “When something thrives on volunteers and donations, you know it’s a good place.”

Sea Turtle, Inc. is located at 6617 Padre Blvd. and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday each week and closed on Mondays. More information on activities and opportunities to volunteer or donate can be found online at seaturtleinc.org.

Photos courtesy Jim Lowenstein, Sea Turtle, Inc.

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