GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies has done it again, rehabilitating one of the most endangered species of the sea and returning them back home early Saturday morning.
It all starts with the fire fighters. Chief Michael Beyerstedt, with the Gulfport Fire Department, said they've been working with IMMS for two years now. They're more than happy to do their part in rehabilitating injured sea turtles that get caught in fishing nets and caring for them until they can get proper treatment.
"We realize that these incidents happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, we partnered with them to rescue the turtles at night time when their staff is not on duty," Beyerstedt said.
When the turtles are taken in, they're seen first by an IMMS veterinarian. Kristin Crocker says after a complete examination, the turtles are treated and shortly put back on their normal diet. Then, they can attend a release party like this one to say their goodbyes.
"They're very critically endangered. I feel like I'm having a very small part in helping them to go back into the wild and hopefully reproduce and repopulate," Crocker said.
A large crowd watched as several students, officials and even a Boy Scout troop assisted IMMS workers with releasing nine Kemps Ridley sea turtles back into their natural habitat.
Three of them had satellite tracking devices attached to their backs so IMMS can track their 98 percent success rate.
"It's important to be assured that what you're doing is successful. By a satellite tagging, a few of them we know that the animals we put back in are doing okay," IMMS President and Director Moby Solangi said.
Solangi says the trackers attached to the turtles can last up to a few months. The longest he has seen one last is a full year.