After spending over a year in rehabilitation at the National Aquarium, the loggerhead sea turtle rescued by the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Resque Program (MARP) last July is now ready to be returned to the ocean! The MARP team will release the turtle from Assateague State Park on Saturday, September 19th in conjunction with Maryland Coastal Bays program’s Coast Day event.
MARP rescued the turtle after it was found in dire condition by the United States Coast Guard off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. The underweight turtle had living organisms and epibionts embedded on its shell, so it could not dive properly. Fortunately, with the help of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Outpatient Center, the Aquarium’s vet team was able to bring the the turtle to full recovery.
Here is a recent video of the turtle swimming about in the rehabilitation pool:
This was one of the longest rehabilitation periods for a marine animal rescued by MARP. Within months, the turtle’s shell surface healed and it was able to regain diving ability and a normal diet. Achieving these tasks enabled the struggling, 57 pound turtle to gain weight. Since then, it has enjoyed a diet of capelin, squid, and blue crabs and has been maintaining an ideal weight of 90 pounds. The turtle’s rehabilitation period was extended, however, due to infections that had grown deep into the shell as a result of the embedded organisms.
The turtle was given the name Flight and Release by The Shared Earth Foundation, as it was originally expected to be flown to Florida and released earlier this year. The ongoing health conditions prevented it from an early release, but Flight and Release is now strong enough to survive in the wild. Water temperatures in Maryland are currently perfect for visiting sea turtles, so Flight and Release can be released locally instead of being transported to Florida.
Flight and Release will carry a satellite transmitter, thanks to a generous donation from The Shared Earth Foundation. The public will be able to track the turtle’s journey for a short period of time through aqua.org. Click here for more information on Maryland Coast Day.