GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Saturday was a happy day in Gulfport because sea turtles were brought back to their natural habitat. The crowd watched in awe as the turtles were released into the Mississippi Sound.
Rescued from fishing lines and nets, one loggerhead and nine endangered Kemps Ridley sea turtles embarked on their second chance at life in the wild. And it was all thanks to the care of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS).
"They have to go through intense veterinary procedures. We take them back to IMMS. We remove the hook. We rehabilitate them, feed them. Bring them to health and release them," IMMS President Moby Solangi said.
Moby says it took several months to get the turtles rehabilitated. This release was the second one for 2013. Half of the 38 they've rescued this year have been successfully taken back into the sea.
"We fund them through a cooperative agreement and grants to make sure that they provide the science and the medicine to rehab these turtles; so that we can have these happy endings for many of these turtles," Executive Director of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Jamie Miller said.
Like proud parents IMMS scientists told the crowd all the details about the special reptiles
"I think it's really cool releasing these sea turtles into the Gulf. It's really cool. I think its fun and I like that I can be a part of it here on the Gulf and see it happen," attendee Jarrett Herron said.
Herron was among 200 who gathered in support of preserving wildlife. Some even got some hands on training in releasing a turtle.
"Dr. Solangi was kind enough to be able to pick out some of the boys and was able to allow them to carry the turtles out," Cub Master Jim Clayton said.
"This is a great turnout. We want people to be better stewards; understand what we are doing. The importance of our work. This is an important part of the restoration process in the aftermath of the oil spill," Solangi added.
Two of the larger Kemps Ridley sea turtles were tagged so they could be followed by satellite you can track their movement by clicking FOLLOW.