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Gulfport’s Mississippi Aquarium releases sea turtles back into the wild after rehabilitation

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 9:48 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A huge crowd gathered along the shoreline near Courthouse Road Friday night to bid farewell to ten Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. The sea creatures have been recuperating at the Mississippi Aquarium since December 2020.

At that time, Turtles Fly Too flew dozens of stranded turtles to the Mississippi Aquarium from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. During the course of their normal sea travel, the turtles were stunned by cold water temperatures. Veterinarians say the cold causes the sea turtles to get weak and makes it difficult for them to swim.

The team at the Mississippi Aquarium immediately went to work giving them antibiotics to fight off pneumonia, and feeding them plenty of fluids.

Mississippi Aquarium CEO Kurt Allen said this is the aquarium’s first-time rescuing sea turtles, but it won’t be their last. The facility plans to continue such rescue operations, since it’s common for them to get cold-stunned during migration.

Allen explained that it’s vital to keep the species alive since they are so rare.

“These guys are really endangered, so it’s really critically important to get them back to health and back into the wild so they can continue to reproduce. They need to grow in numbers. We care about animals, and especially endangered species, so we need to do everything that we can,” said Allen.

Dr. Sean Perry has been a veterinarian for more than eight years and has helped with rescues before. This, however, was his first time seeing them return back into the water.

“That’s my passion in life, it’s helping endangered species, especially reptile endangered species. I’m a reptile nerd,” said Perry.

Perry explained that several other costal states are relied on when it comes to helping the sea turtles recover.

“They could rehabilitate them in northern areas, however, they would have to wait until the water warms up. Often times, they’ll send them down to Florida, Louisiana, Texas and here in Mississippi. Because the waters warm up faster down here, we’re able to get those animals back into the wild sooner. It’s a common thing that happens every year with this species,” said Perry.

Unfortunately, four of the sea turtles brought to Gulfport were so sick they passed away. But the Mississippi Aquarium has 11 more turtles still making a comeback. We’re told they are 50-80% rehabilitated, and getting closer every day to going back into the water.

The aquarium plans to have another releasing event once those turtles are completely healthy.

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