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Mote rehabbed turtles flip their way to freedom

Jenna Rouse and Weston Spoon, Animal Care Technicians fromMote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, release eight Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

Mote Marine Laboratory released eight Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital last Thursday.

These turtles, plus a ninth Kemp’s and one green sea turtle still at Mote, came to Florida on Dec. 8 as part of a team effort to rehabilitate 46 cold-stunned turtles initially brought to the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) in Quincy, Massachusetts.

The 46 turtles traveled by private jet from NEAQ to four facilities: Mote, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Florida Aquarium and Sea World Orlando. Mote provided personalized care for its 10 patients, including food, fluids and antibiotics administered through injection and eye drops.

After nearly two months of treatment, eight of Mote’s 10 turtles were medically cleared for release. On Feb. 1, Mote staff transported the turtles to New Smyrna Beach on Florida’s east coast and successfully returned them to the sea. Before release, Mote staff and interns fitted each sea turtle with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag, which gives the turtle a unique barcode identification number similar to microchips in household pets.

“It is always our objective to rehabilitate as quickly and safely as possible so that these animals can return to their natural environment,” said Lynne Byrd, Mote’s Rehabilitation and Medical Care Coordinator. “Sea turtles are resilient creatures and this group has responded well to treatment. We look forward to releasing the remaining two turtles from the original 10 in the near future.”

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