Apr
22

Apex will be released this weekend!

Apex is a sub-adult loggerhead sea turtle that stranded on Little Cumberland Island on July 26, 2013. When Apex stranded, it was obvious why. He/she had been attacked by a large shark. Sharks are an apex predator of the oceans (hence the turtles name) and are one of very few natural predators of sea turtles. Turtles defend themselves by trying to swim away, biting back, or using their shell to deflect bites. When Apex stranded he/she was missing most of his/her left front flipper, and had bite wounds to the right front flipper, the carapace (top shell) and the bridge (the part of the shell that connects the top and bottom shells). After a variety of treatments from honey to bone cement, Apex is finally ready for release. Sea turtles are tough animals, and can survive just fine missing part of a flipper (they can even survive with only 3 or 2 flippers!) so we aren’t worried about Apex having any problems in the wild. Apex will be released as part of the Tybee Sea Turtle Project’s annual 5k Turtle Trot! Release will be after the race and award ceremony. Approximately 9:45 am.

 

apex

Feb
20

Jekyll Island Authority Announces Lecture Series Presented by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Public invited to discover “On the Wild Side” in an engaging series of evening presentations.

terry and michelle with turtle (2)JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga., Feb. 12, 2014 – The Jekyll Island Authority is proud to announce an exciting new program presented by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center designed to engage the public on wildlife and conservation issues. A highly visual and engaging series of talks includes four evening presentations, three of which will spotlight the Center’s professional staff as they share their insights into prevailing wildlife themes of the day.

The kick-off event will be Thursday, March 13, 2014 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, and include a 30-minute reception featuring exhibits and displays followed by a 1 hour presentation entitled Wild Adventures from a Wildlife and Zoo Veterinarian by Dr. Terry Norton. Dr. Norton is the Veterinarian, Director and Founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a department of the Jekyll Island Authority. The audience will be lead on a journey through the fascinating career of a zoo and wildlife veterinarian.  Dr. Norton has worked with a wide array of wildlife ranging from small frogs to elephants and giraffe, providing medical and surgical care in a number of different facilities and environments. Brief talks will be given by individuals influenced by Dr. Norton, including stories told by Center staff specialists Michelle Kaylor, Katie Higgins, Jeannie Miller and Dr. Kimberly Andrews.

Sheryl Staaden, a professional zoo keeper from the Jacksonville Zoo will have a table display with information on using behavioral training in zoo animals. The display will highlight information on their recent success of performing artificial insemination on jaguars at the zoo. Gerald Douberly, a farrier from Savannah, Georgia will have information on his trade and his horseshoe artwork. Gerald was the consulting farrier for St. Catherines Island where he trimmed the zebra hooves for many years. Staff from St. Catherines Island will have a table displaying lemur behavior, medical care, and conservation and common immobilizing equipment such as dart guns and darts that have been used on some of the captive animals that have been housed on St. Catherines over the years. Other Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff will have a table on wound care in turtles and wildlife telemetry.

Future events in the lecture series will continue the theme of interesting and interactive presentations. On April 3 Dr. Kimberly Andrews will present Forty Years of Nesting Turtles on Jekyll Island. On May 8 David Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History will give a talk on the archaeological discovery of a Spanish mission from the 1500s on St. Catherines Island. This inaugural lecture series will close on August 26 with several Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff presenting Conservation in Motion: The Story of the Diamondback Terrapin.  Led by Michelle Kaylor, Dr. Norton and Dr. Andrews, the talk will focus on the protection of the diamondback terrapin through roadside management planning which reduces terrapin mortality on Georgia’s causeways and elsewhere.

The public is invited and encouraged to join these conservation professionals and hear their fascinating stories working on wildlife and missions influencing Georgia’s natural resources. All ticket proceeds benefit the on-going work at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Individual lectures ticket prices will be $10, $5 for students. There will be a cash bar at the events and all presentations will be at the Jekyll Island Convention Center from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.

The 2014 “Wild Side” Lecture Series presented by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center:

Event times and dates are subject to change. For more information call the Jekyll Island Authority, Georgia Sea Turtle Center at (912) 635-4043, or e-mail lhunt@jekyllisland.com or visit www.jekyllisland.com.

Feb
4

Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl Triathlon & NestFest

Ready, Set, Crawl!

It’s time again for one of Jekyll Island’s great traditions, the Turtle Crawl Triathlon and NestFest, which help launch the annual sea turtle nesting season in Georgia’s Golden Isles.  The spring event on this beautiful barrier island celebrates athleticism and ecology and is the perfect place for a fun, family “racecation”!

Known as one of the most-scenic triathlons on the East Coast, the Turtle Crawl Triathlon on Jekyll Island is sanctioned by USA Triathlon.  Jekyll Island’s magnificent Great Dunes Park is the start-finish area for the three Turtle Crawl races that together accommodate every skill level, from elite, world-class athletes to novices:  an International Distance Triathlon, a Sprint Distance Triathlon, and a traditional 5K Run.IMG_7714

These heart-healthy races along Jekyll Island’s picturesque shoreline and maritime forests do more than get your blood pumping; they also aid endangered sea turtle research and rehabilitation, benefiting the island’s renowned Georgia Sea Turtle Center through the Jekyll Island Foundation.

Families with children of all ages are invited to participate in the educational NestFest activities that will take place near the Turtle Crawl finish line and then to join Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff on the beach for the release of a rehabilitated sea turtle

The NestFest events accompanying the races are free to the public (with the $6 Jekyll Island parking fee).  More information about the NestFest activities and Turtle Crawl can be found on the Special Events page of georgiaseaturtlecenter.org.

First have a run, then discover some natural fun!

Jan
30

Sweetgrass Restoration on Jekyll Island

One of the many wonderful things about serving at the GSTC as an AmeriCorps member is that we each get the opportunity to do a project during our service term. We are able to create a project of our own, or we can work on a project that the turtle center may need some help getting off the ground. I have chosen to work with a native grass on Jekyll Island called sweetgrass or muhly grass. The goal of the project is to establish a way to grow native grass that can be
used to restore some of the dune region of Jekyll Island. Through this restoration project I’ve gotten the chance to expand my knowledge base about grasses and have gotten t1616472_10151920437660893_1931317568_no practice collaborating with many people to accomplish a common goal.

I’ve read current literature on propagating sweetgrass and I’ve spoken with the author of that research, Dr. Robert Dufault, to understand how his work may influence what I’m doing. I’ve been able to work with Stephanie Knox and Scott Coleman on Little St. Simons Island to collect the native seed, and I’m working with Cliff Gawron, Kenny Pruitt, and other greenhouse staff to establish and take care of the seeds. I’m also working with Ben Carswell, the Director of Conservation on Jekyll Island, and our volunteer program from the center has even come into play with volunteer Greg Evans from the University of Georgia Marine Extension assisting in planting the seeds.

Last weekend a group of five of us worked to plant all of the seeds into starter trays and placed them in the greenhouse. This week some of the seeds germinated and we are expecting more to pop up in the coming days. After the seedlings are large enough, they will be transferred into the ground
in restoration areas around the island. If this project goes well, the plan will be to continue to restore an acre per year until the island has a native, self-sustaining, sweetgrass population again.

You may be curious why, as a sea turtle rehabilitation facility, propagating native sweetgrass would be important. The answer comes down to maintaining a healthy ecosystem and preserving beach habitat. By supporting the beach ecosystem, and promoting the growth of native plants, we are improving
nesting habitat for sea turtles and shorebirds alike. A large threat to coastal wildlife is habitat loss and degradation, and so by restoring areas to their natural state we are helping these animals succeed and we are providing beautiful landscapes for Jekyll Island visitors to enjoy.

-Maranda Miller

AmeriCorps  Volunteer
Coordination Member

Nov
20

DSCN0017

By Kimberly M. Andrews, PhD, Research Coordinator

 

Jekyll Island’s last hatchlings have made their way to the sea, our patrollers have hung up their headlamps, and the 2013 Sea Turtle Season on Jekyll Island has officially concluded! As a follower of a sea turtle nest on Jekyll we wanted to let you know how the season went. Below is a summary of how our loggerheads did this year:

  • First Nest: May 21, 2013
  • Last Nest: August 22, 2013
  • Total Number of Nests: 175
  • Total Number of False Crawls: 357
  • Estimated Number of Individual Female Turtles: 59
  • First Nest to Hatch: Nest #3 on July 19, 2013
  • Last Nest to Hatch: Nest #174 on October 27, 2013
  • Total Number of Hatchlings: 9,190
  • Average Hatch Success: 56%


DSCN6154Even though the turtles kept us waiting for most of May to start the season, they were just making a fashionably late arrival to what would become Georgia’s best nesting year yet! Last year’s record of 2,245 nests in the state of Georgia was broken when the ladies of 2013 bumped that number up to 2,310 nests. While Jekyll Island didn’t surpass its record of 204 nests, we still had a successful season with 175 nests. No green or leatherback sea turtles stopped by the island for a visit this year, so all of the activity belonged to loggerheads. As a grand finale to the nesting season, a tardy turtle broke Jekyll Island’s record for latest nester on August 22.

The first hatchling of 2013 crawls to the sea.

Even though we are well into fall, the season’s highlights still shine through for everyone who patrolled our beaches this summer. In an exciting moment on June 5th, two patrollers got to see the world’s oldest-known loggerhead as she false crawled on the South End of Jekyll. With an age estimated to be over 80 years, this turtle – dubbed Big Bertha – didn’t actually end up nesting on Jekyll Island this year. Instead, she snuck off to a couple other islands in the state and laid three successful nests. After 33 years of nesting, this is one good mamma!

Patrollers pose for a picture with the last turtle to nest on June 21, one of Jekyll’s busiest nights ever!

Overall, everyone at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is very proud to have been part of the successful 2013 Sea Turtle Nesting Season. Between May and October we spent more than 1,100 hours on the beach, covering nearly 1,300 miles! All of this hard work would not have been possible without the help of staff and AmeriCorps members at the GSTC, interns, volunteers, and the Jekyll Island Authority.

Thank you for supporting us this season and we hope to see you again next year!

Sincerely,
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center Research Team

Oct
2

Update: Gabi Safe & Sound in New Desert Home

Update: Last week, Gabriella , a five-year-old loggerhead sea turtle who had called the Georgia Sea Turtle Center home for several years, was transferred to her new home in the Utah desert. Taking a plane trip on Southwest Airlines alongside Georgia Sea Turtle Center veterinarian and director Terry Norton, Gabi was safely transported to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy, Utah. Good luck in your new home, Gabi!

gabi to utah

 

Did you miss the original post about Gabi’s trip out west? Read on: 

A long-time patient at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island has found a new home! With health conditions that make her unsuitable for release back into the wild, Gabriella will instead be transported to her new habitat in Utah this Thursday, September 26, 2013.

A five-year-old loggerhead sea turtle, Gabriella was originally brought to the Center on October 14, 2008, having been found washed up on Atlantic Beach in Jacksonville inside a clump of seaweed. When brought to the Center, Gabby, as she is most often called, was diagnosed as emaciated, with a number of lesions and areas of exposed bone on her shell.  After treating her wounds and being put on antibiotics, fluids and a feeding tube, she healed over the course of a month or so. In late November 2008, Gabby was transferred to Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, where she was on display for educational purposes.

However, in August 2011, Gabby was sent back to the Center to be evaluated for potential release. During an examination, it was noted that she had a curve in her spine, which was causing her bottom half to be more buoyant than the rest of her body. Staff at the Center used weight therapy to even out her body in the water, but she continued to have problems finding a proper balance. Despite using additional treatment methods to correct the problem, staff at the Center have now determined she is not a proper candidate for being released, and will instead be sent to an aquarium where she can act as an ambassador for sea turtles.

Later this week, Dr. Terry Norton, veterinarian and director of the Center, will accompany Gabby on a Southwest Airlines flight to The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy, Utah, where she will live permanently.  For the transition and flight, Gabby will be transported in a kennel, which will be placed in its own airline seat next to Norton on the flight.

“It will be interesting to have Gabby sitting next to me on the plane,” Norton said. “A special thanks to Southwest Airlines for making it so easy to make these arrangements.”

Having a loggerhead sea turtle on display for the public to see and learn about is a great way to educate new audiences about the plight of sea turtles, Norton said, adding that this new partnership takes on a more personal note for him.

“Having Gabby on display at the Utah aquarium is an excellent way to spread the word about what the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is doing to help sea turtles, especially in Utah, which is in an audience that may otherwise be difficult to reach,” he said. “Interestingly, I grew up very close to the aquarium in Utah, so it makes this move even more special for me. With this transfer, everything really fell into place to make this as easy as possible.”

The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is likewise enthusiastic about bring the new patient on board, and is thrilled to develop this new partnership between the Utah facility and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

“The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is extremely excited to bring an endangered loggerhead sea turtle to our facility,” said Eleasha Grossman, associate director of education at the aquarium. “Gabby will be a wonderful addition for our field trip guests, our on-site programming and our special events. Loggerheads are great spotlight animal for our conservation efforts and public awareness pieces. Sea turtles are beautiful animals with remarkable life cycles that help our desert guests care about the oceans with one swim past their delighted eyes.”

About the Georgia Sea Turtle Center: Established in 2007 on Jekyll Island and operated by the Jekyll Island Authority, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center was developed as an institution devoted to the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles and preservation of the delicate balance of the oceanic ecosystem. Through sea turtle rehabilitation, research and educational programs, Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff work to increase awareness of habitat and wildlife conservation challenges, promote responsibility for ecosystem health and empower individuals to act locally, regionally, and globally to protect the environment. For information, visit www.georgiaseaturtlecenter.org.

About the Loveland Living Aquarium: The Sandy, Utah-based aquarium works to provide living “classrooms” that immerse people in natural ecosystems, bridging the gaps between education, entertainment and conservation to help people understand and appreciate their connection to the global system of life. Through education and engagement, staff at the non-profit facility strives to inform guests about their place in the global system of life by showcasing the world’s ecosystems. Overall, its driving mission is to inspire people to explore, discover and learn about Earth’s diverse ecosystems. For more information, visit www.thelivingplanet.com.

 

 

 

 

Sep
25

Weekly Alligator Course Proves Successful in its First Year

This summer, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island launched an exciting new weekly class to educate guests about one of the df alligatorisland’s most interesting creatures: the American alligator.

As part of island-wide alligator research efforts, which are supported by the Jekyll Island Authority, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and NOAA,  Kimberly Andrews, Ph.D., University of Georgia Master’s Student Greg Skupien and researchers at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center offered a free, weekly Alligator Education Program throughout the summer. During the inaugural run of the class, educators taught guests about the habitats and lifestyles of alligators as well as introduced participants to one of Jekyll’s very own resident alligators.

The final class of the inaugural alligator sessions was held Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

 “In these weekly classes, participants learned about the importance of American alligators in local ecosystems,” Skupien said. “Additionally, they learned about ongoing research efforts on Jekyll Island including the use of radio telemetry to track the movement patterns of large alligators. Further, they were educated on the actual risk of living alongside alligators and how to safely observe alligators in the wild.”

These classes were limited to 25 to 30 people per week, and were full every session. Overall, Skupien hosted 13 alligator programs, with a total of 391 participants. Because the 2013 season of classes proved so successful, the course will continue next year, starting early spring of 2014 and following the same model that was used for this initial round of classes.

“These classes were so popular because alligators are charismatic animals that are important members of both southeastern ecosystems and American culture,” Skupien said.

Along with these popular classes, efforts continue to be made to ensure the safety of both guests and the island’s alligator population. Alligator research on Jekyll has been ongoing for more than two years, having started in April 2011 by Andrews, and now continuing with Skupien. Since alligators can be very cryptic creatures, researchers have found it tricky to determine an exact population count on the island. However, they have noted a seasonal variation in alligator abundance, with the animals being more active in the warmer spring and summer months. During the cooler winter months, alligators tend to spend more time in dens underground, where they become difficult to spot.

Despite the animals’ natural ability to stay hidden, Andrews and Skupien regularly partake in intense efforts to track and observe the wild creatures. Thanks to the census surveys they conduct monthly on the island, Andrews and Skupien estimate about 125 alligators call Jekyll Island home. Of these, about 75 percent are small, immature alligators, measuring less than six feet in length.

Additionally, “we are radio tracking 10 adult alligators in order to examine alligator habitat use and movement patterns on the island,” Skupien said. “We also collect data on the size and sex of captured alligators in order to determine growth rates, sex ratios, and other pertinent information.”

These ancient wonders are a great indicator of the island’s overall ecological health, as they are sensitive to environmental factors. A healthy population of American alligators translates to a healthy island ecosystem. Additionally, alligators are a top predator on Jekyll Island, and they help maintain healthy populations of other animals.  Most commonly, these reptiles will be found near lakes, especially around golf courses, but are not considered extreme threats to people.

Though Jekyll is home to a sizeable population of alligators, the animals rarely cause problems for island residents and guests. On occasion, an alligator will be seen in the road, or may enter a private backyard, but “that’s about it,” Skupien said. “Nothing serious. We respond to those calls and deal with the alligators as needed. We also use these opportunities to educate our residents and guests about how to safely live amongst these wild creatures.”

In the cooler fall and winter months on Jekyll Island, alligator populations tend to stay even more hidden than in warmer months, making them harder to spot. However, Andrews and Skupien caution visitors to be vigilant while on the island. By following a simple set of guidelines, these impressive creatures can add a bit of extra wonder, but no harm, to your overall Jekyll Island experience. Just remember: Be kind. Stay back. Follow the rules.

While exploring and enjoying Jekyll, follow these rules to maintain a safe but educational experience around alligators:

• Do not feed or attempt to feed the alligators: Alligators are protected by state and federal law and feeding them is illegal. When alligators are fed they lose their natural fear of humans.

• Be aware of your surroundings: Always be aware of alligators when you are anywhere near fresh or brackish water. Never intentionally approach or try to capture an alligator, no matter what size.

• Do not allow children to play in water inhabited by alligators: Always keep children a safe distance from the water’s edge, and never allow them to throw objects into the water. To an alligator, a splash potentially means a food source is in the water.

• Do not allow pets in or near water known to harbor alligators: Dogs and other small pets are more likely to be attacked than humans because they resemble natural prey. Please keep all dogs leashed and do not allow them to swim, drink, or play at the water’s edge.

• Play it safe when golfing: Never search for a lost golf ball in the water or on the bank. Of course, never try to hit a ball that has come to rest near an alligator.

For more information about Jekyll Island and alligator research, visit jekyllisland.com or georgiseaturtlecenter.org. 

Sep
24

From Sea to Desert, Georgia Sea Turtle Center Transitions Patient to Utah Facility

A long-time patient at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island has found a new home! With health conditions that make her Gabbyunsuitable for release back into the wild, Gabriella will instead be transported to her new habitat in Utah this Thursday, September 26, 2013.

A five-year-old loggerhead sea turtle, Gabriella was originally brought to the Center on October 14, 2008, having been found washed up on Atlantic Beach in Jacksonville inside a clump of seaweed. When brought to the Center, Gabby, as she is most often called, was diagnosed as emaciated, with a number of lesions and areas of exposed bone on her shell.  After treating her wounds and being put on antibiotics, fluids and a feeding tube, she healed over the course of a month or so. In late November 2008, Gabby was transferred to Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, where she was on display for educational purposes.

However, in August 2011, Gabby was sent back to the Center to be evaluated for potential release. During an examination, it was noted that she had a curve in her spine, which was causing her bottom half to be more buoyant than the rest of her body. Staff at the Center used weight therapy to even out her body in the water, but she continued to have problems finding a proper balance. Despite using additional treatment methods to correct the problem, staff at the Center have now determined she is not a proper candidate for being released, and will instead be sent to an aquarium where she can act as an ambassador for sea turtles.

Later this week, Dr. Terry Norton, veterinarian and director of the Center, will accompany Gabby on a Southwest Airlines flight to The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy, Utah, where she will live permanently.  For the transition and flight, Gabby will be transported in a kennel, which will be placed in its own airline seat next to Norton on the flight.

“It will be interesting to have Gabby sitting next to me on the plane,” Norton said. “A special thanks to Southwest Airlines for making it so easy to make these arrangements.”

Having a loggerhead sea turtle on display for the public to see and learn about is a great way to educate new audiences about the plight of sea turtles, Norton said, adding that this new partnership takes on a more personal note for him.

“Having Gabby on display at the Utah aquarium is an excellent way to spread the word about what the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is doing to help sea turtles, especially in Utah, which is in an audience that may otherwise be difficult to reach,” he said. “Interestingly, I grew up very close to the aquarium in Utah, so it makes this move even more special for me. With this transfer, everything really fell into place to make this as easy as possible.”

The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is likewise enthusiastic about bring the new patient on board, and is thrilled to develop this new partnership between the Utah facility and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

 “The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is extremely excited to bring an endangered loggerhead sea turtle to our facility,” said Eleasha Grossman, associate director of education at the aquarium. “Gabby will be a wonderful addition for our field trip guests, our on-site programming and our special events. Loggerheads are great spotlight animal for our conservation efforts and public awareness pieces. Sea turtles are beautiful animals with remarkable life cycles that help our desert guests care about the oceans with one swim past their delighted eyes.”

About the Georgia Sea Turtle Center: Established in 2007 on Jekyll Island and operated by the Jekyll Island Authority, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center was developed as an institution devoted to the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles and preservation of the delicate balance of the oceanic ecosystem. Through sea turtle rehabilitation, research and educational programs, Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff work to increase awareness of habitat and wildlife conservation challenges, promote responsibility for ecosystem health and empower individuals to act locally, regionally, and globally to protect the environment. For information, visit www.georgiaseaturtlecenter.org.

About the Loveland Living Aquarium: The Sandy, Utah-based aquarium works to provide living “classrooms” that immerse people in natural ecosystems, bridging the gaps between education, entertainment and conservation to help people understand and appreciate their connection to the global system of life. Through education and engagement, staff at the non-profit facility strives to inform guests about their place in the global system of life by showcasing the world’s ecosystems. Overall, its driving mission is to inspire people to explore, discover and learn about Earth’s diverse ecosystems. For more information, visit www.thelivingplanet.com.

Sep
19

Georgia Sea Turtle Center Plans Monumental Release During Weekend Festival

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center will host an extra-large sea turtle release this Saturday, Sept. 21, in conjunction with the 8th annual Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival. During the weekend release, the Center will send a total of five sea turtles back to their native ocean home.

To be held at Great Dunes PGSTC Release Sept 21ark, the release of so many healed patients at once is amazing, said Dr. Terry Norton, veterinarian and director of the Center.

“This is an exciting day for us here at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center,” Norton said. “Any time we can heal and release just one turtle, it’s an achievement. But to have five sea turtles going back to the ocean in one morning, that’s a moment to remember. To be able to hold such a monumental release during Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival is also exciting, as crowds will be larger and more people will be able to be engaged by these amazing animals.”

Of the five turtles being released, four were brought to the Center over the summer, and have already been brought back to health.

Coming to the Center on May 4, Pri is a juvenile green sea turtle, who was found stranded on Cumberland Island. Diagnosed as anemic and emaciated, Pri likewise had several ulcerations and epibiota (or barnacles) on his/her skin and shell. After rounds of fluid therapy, antibiotics, and wound management treatments, Pri was also found to have joint infections in his/her elbows. Additional treatments and surgeries were utilized to heal the condition and Pri is now ready for release.  Pri will have a very small satellite transmitter on her so our visitors will be able to follow the turtle’s travels in the ocean.  This is a collaborative study between Scott Eastman, the Blank Park Zoo, and the Center.

Having come to the Center within days of each other, Lil’ Simon and Cedar have both been pronounced healed and healthy. Coming to the Center on June 11, Lil’ Simon was found stranded on St. Simons Island. The sub-adult sea turtle arrived at the Center emaciated, covered in epibiota, and with anemic conditions. After several weeks of treatment, mobility-enhancing drugs and other antibiotics, Lil’ Simon has been brought back to health.  Four days after Lil’ Simon arrived, Cedar came to the Center on June 15. This juvenile green sea turtle was found stranded on Little St. Simons Island, suffering from severe shark bite injuries, with damage done to its right rear flipper and part of its upper shell missing. Fortunately, no damage was done to Cedar’s internal organs or body cavity. Innovative wound care techniques were utilized in Cedar’s healing, with tools including zip ties, suture loops and honey comb. After weeks of intense treatments, Cedar’s wounds have healed.

Oz came to the Center on July 21, being diagnosed as “debilitated,” meaning he/she was emaciated and anemic. Oz was also found to have more barnacles on its shell than was healthy, with one of the heaviest loads of marine leeches that Center staff had ever seen. It was this condition that lead to the turtle’s name, as Oz is short for Ozobranchus, which is a species of marine leech that feeds on sea turtle blood. Since being brought to the Center, Oz has gained weight and recovered from the anemic condition, making the turtle ready to enter the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Also ready for release is Stevie, who came to the Center last year. Brought in on June 11, 2012, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was caught by the Lady Jane, an eco-trawler that operates out of Brunswick. Crews on the Lady Jane recognized that Stevie had been hit by a boat propeller and needed medical attention. After more than a year of treatments and medical observation, Stevie has been declared healthy and is healed enough to reenter the wild.

All five sea turtles are slated to be released at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Great Dunes Park. The public and media are invited to attend, and homemade signs to cheer on the turtles are encouraged.

About the Georgia Sea Turtle Center: Established in 2007 on Jekyll Island and operated by the Jekyll Island Authority, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center was developed as an institution devoted to the conservation of coastal wildlife and ecosystems. Through rehabilitation, research and educational programs, Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff work to increase awareness of habitat and wildlife conservation challenges, promote responsibility for ecosystem health, and empower individuals to act locally, regionally, and globally to protect the environment. For information, visit georgiaseaturtlecenter.org or jekyllisland.com.

Sep
11

Group sends saved turtles back to the sea

Every year, the researchers, medical specialists and educators at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island work to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured sea turtles, as well as educate the public about the importance of the creatures to our overall ecosystem.

Recently, Laura Crozier, editor of the Charlton County Herald newspaper in Folkston, got wind of the efforts being conducted at the Center. In a recent article, she shared with her audience the intricate details of day-to-day life at the Center. Read on to learn more:

Group sends saved turtles back to the sea
By Laura Crozier Tuesday, September 10, 2013doc522f224de26a4203157364

There are a lot jobs out there worse than mine.

I was reminded of how fun my job can be last week when I found myself barefoot, on the beach at Jekyll Island watching two giant sea turtles making their cumbersome way across the sand into the ocean.

Tiburon and Shirley are endangered loggerhead turtles and through the efforts of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, on JI, they are once again swimming in the depths of the Atlantic.

The sea turtle center, the only one in the state of Georgia, does rehabilitation, research, and educational programs to increase awareness of habitat and and wildlife programs. They also promote responsibility for ecosystem health and empower people to help protect the environment.

Last Friday, they were releasing rehabilitated turtles. How cool is that?

Shirley is a “sub-adult” (read teenager) loggerhead. She was found off the Fernandina Beach coast by a research boat back in June. She was underweight, had a lot of barnacles. leeches and stuff growing on her shell, and just generally wasn’t doing well. She was brought to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where she was found to be anemic.

Tiburon is an adult male loggerhead who was found stranded on Cumberland Island, also in June. It takes 30-35 years for loggerheads to reach maturity, so the turtle center staff knew Tiburon is at least 30 years old.

The fact of his being found on a beach at all was cause for concern. Male loggerheads almost never return to land after hatching. He also had a lot of crud on his shell, and he was lethargic, and underweight as well

The good folks at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center immediately began treatment of the two marine reptiles. They were placed in fresh water to help clean the hitchhikers off their shells, given fluids, antiobiotics and other meds.

Healthy sea turtles feast on crabs and whelks in the ocean. At the sea turtle center, Tiburon and Shirley were fed a special soft diet of fish, shrimp, and squid. The pair soon began to perk up and put on weight.

The loggerheads did so well under the dedicated care of the staff at the sea turtle center, they were ready to be returned to the ocean in just a few short months.

Friday afternoon was chosen for the release and over 100 people showed up to cheer them on. A few, like 10 year old Megan Kelly, even made signs  for the turtles.

When Tiburon and Shirley headed down to the water under their own steam, everyone held their breath. When they hit the waves and took off swimming, everyone cheered and more than a few people were wiping their eyes.

The staff and volunteers of the sea turtle center were ecstatic. This, afterall, is what they had been working towards since the sick turtles were turned over to the care.

“This is the most gratifying part of the job,” said Dr. Terry Norton, veterinarian and director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. “The sea is where the loggerheads belong. This is what it’s all about.”

Dr. Norton doesn’t have the worst job in the world either.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an operating department of the Jekyll Island Authority and receives financial contributions through the Jekyll Island Foundation. They do not receive any taxpayer funding.

To learn more about the center’s mission of rehabilitation, research, and education, go to www.georgiaseaturtlecenter.org or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GeorgiaSeaTurtleCenter.

The center is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through November. Admission fees are reasonable and go towards the center’s operational costs, including rehabilitation.

You can see a turtle release for yourself on Saturday, September 21, at 9 a.m., on the Great Dunes beach on Jekyll Island. There is no charge for this event.

• Laura Crozier is the editor of the Charlton County Herald. E-mail her at editor@charltonherald.com.

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