DENNIS – Three endangered sea turtles with satellite tags were returned to the warm summer waters off Cape Cod last evening after washing ashore last winter, suffering from hypothermia, and then being rehabilitated at the New England Aquarium.
The Aquarium’s Connie Merigo, who directs the rescue department, led a team of biologists and volunteers from the Aquarium and Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to release two green sea turtles named “Snap” and “Crackle” and one Kemp’s ridley turtle named “Tony the Tiger.”
Bearing satellite tags on their shells that will fall off after six to nine months, the turtles, in the meantime, will send back useful information to researchers about where they migrate, what they eat, and where they travel for winter.
These juvenile sea turtles were named for breakfast cereal characters – which was the naming theme picked by the rescue biologists for this past season.
The released green sea turtles – which weigh about 20 pounds – are voracious eaters which will eventually weigh up to 400 pounds.
The released Kemp’s ridley turtle weighs about 10 pounds and will eventually weigh up to 100 pounds.
The turtles are among the very last to be released after the stranding season from last November and December.
Of the 85 sea turtles of three different species that stranded off Cape Cod, there is one remaining still in rehab.
Scientists believe that many of the young, inexperienced sea turtles that migrate there in the summer to feed on crabs are unable to figure out the difficult navigation to get out of the land bucket created by the enormous peninsula.
As waters cool through autumn, the mostly inert turtles are washed up onto Cape beaches.
They were rescued by the volunteers and staff of the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and transported to Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA – just south of Boston.
Slowly re-warmed over several days, these sea turtles require months of rehab, and then returned nearly to the same location when the water is warmer.
Since the 1990s, more than 1,200 endangered and threatened sea turtles have been rehabilitated and released by the New England Aquarium.