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Audubon Nature Institute Joins Scientists Releasing First Oiled Sea Turtles Back into the Gulf
Audubon Nature Institute of New Orleans is joining state and federal biologists today in releasing 23 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key, Fla., after the turtles were successfully rescued and rehabilitated from the effects of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.
Turtles rehabilitated at Audubon Nature Institute’s Audubon Aquatic Center are among those to be released. Audubon’s stranding coordinator Michele Kelley is joining biologists releasing turtles back into their habitat.
Scientists selected the area on Florida’s Gulf coast for release because it is an important foraging area for the species, the water was never oiled, and the habitat provides everything these turtles need for survival.
“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing healthy animals released back into the wild,” said Audubon’s Michele Kelley. “Our team at Audubon Nature Institute is part of a nationwide network that pulled together to make this day happen. We are so proud to be part of this inspirational and groundbreaking effort to save sea turtles. This release represents conservation at its best.”
“This area near Cedar Key provides excellent habitat for Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles and has long been known as an important habitat area for this species,” said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA’s national sea turtle coordinator. “Thanks to the efforts of our rescue teams and rehabilitation facility partners all of the turtles we released today have an excellent chance of surviving in the wild and contributing to the recovery of this species.
The turtles to be released today were rescued by teams from NOAA and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission working with partners from the Riverhead Foundation and the In-Water Research Group. The turtles received excellent treatment and care, including cleaning and de-oiling, at Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, La., and at Gulf World in Panama City, Fla. The turtles were then cared for by Sea World of Florida, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the Florida Aquarium. To date, approximately 500 live turtles have been rescued during the Gulf oil spill, and more than 450 stranded or captured turtles have had visible evidence of external oil. Approximately 350 turtles are still in rehabilitation facilities and will be released as they are given clean bills of health.
Audubon Aquatic Center, a facility of Audubon Nature Institute’s Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, continues to care for 167 turtles affected by the spill. As the coordinating entity for the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program, Audubon Nature Institute has been rescuing and rehabilitating stranded sea turtles and marine mammals for 15 years.