A dozen sea turtles that had completed their rehabilitation at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island were released on Ocracoke Island on Wednesday morning.
Volunteers with the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST) transported the cold-stunned sea turtles to the Day Use Area on Ocracoke Island, where they were released into the ocean waters at about 11:00 a.m. Representatives from the National Park Service, the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, and a crowd of spectators were also present to watch to show, and to catch a glimpse of the temporary islanders before they shimmied their way back into the water.
Cold-stunned turtles typically suffer symptoms similar to hypothermia – which lower their heart rates and circulation – and are often found stranded on beaches during severe temperature drops. The winter of 2017 / 2018 was an especially cold year, with several freezing events in December and January, and roughly 100 turtles were shuttled to the STAR Center between December 10 and December 20 alone.
Dozens of spectators were at the release on Wednesday, and formed lines along the makeshift path for the turtles that led to the water. The released turtles ranged in size from smaller ones that could simply be placed on the sand, to huge specimens that required several volunteers to lift and carry close to the breaking waves.
The event was filmed and even streamed live on several social media sites, including the NC Aquarium’s Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/NCAquariumRI/), attracting hundreds of additional viewers online.