New (Re)Lease on Life
Injured sea turtles rehabbed at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center were released in Sunset Beach in April.
Five green sea turtles that had been cold-stunned or injured by predators in the winter of 2022–23 and hospitalized at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in Surf City, went home with a big welcome on April 27 at Sunset Beach.
Hospital staff transported the precious cargo by van, each one in its personalized container with a wet cloth covering its top shell, which is called a carapace.
The Sunset Beach Sea Turtle Patrol was the host unit, supported by members of the OIB Sea Turtle Protection Organization, with the hospital employees leading the efforts. Word quickly spread and a couple hundred beachgoers got a thrill watching the volunteers release them into the ocean.
The sea turtles, threatened with extinction, were between 6- and 10-pound juveniles.
If they have the good fortune of surviving to maturity, they will grow to several hundred pounds.
Most had been cold-stunned in December and January in waters off Cape Lookout. One had been attacked by a predator, which did serious damage to the turtle’s eyes, but it recovered well after months of rehab. One other also had serious physical damage, but the hospital staff could not determine the reason for it.
The volunteers used a hand-held portable microphone to explain to the onlookers what was happening, but the waves broke loudly and frequently, drowning the voices.
They carried each sea turtle gently up and down the ranks of the spectators, who were awed at their beautiful markings and waving flippers.
Pairs of volunteers then released them into the much warmer water at Sunset Beach, deftly lowering each one into the surf. All but one made it successfully through the breakers on its first attempt.
Mother Nature gave one of its children a surfing lesson, riding her directly back to the beach. The next try was the charm.
Sea turtle patrol members see hundreds of mostly loggerhead sea turtles being born and helping them to the ocean. They rarely see a spectacle such as this, and they know it is probably for many a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They were beaming with happiness and came together for a massive group photo, waving their own flippers, to celebrate the day.