Kiawah Turtle Release


Tuesday started off as a busy morning on Kiawah’s front beach. Amongst the hundreds of people walking the beach Tuesday morning, we also had 8 “guests” that weren’t walking per se; rather they vigorously flapped their pectoral fins and scooted down to the water. If you haven’t figured it out already, we enjoyed watching 7 Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles and 1 juvenileLoggerhead be successfully released back into the deep blue yonder. With the great work of the South Carolina Sea Turtle Hospital in downtown Charleston, these 8 were happily flapping their flippers, eagerly awaiting the reunion with the fresh morning salt water, breaking in the calm surf of Kiawah’s beach.

The Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles were a part of the largest occurrence of cold stunning the east coast has ever seen. In November and December of 2012, these 7 were a fraction of 230 sea turtles that were stranded in the cold waters off the shores of Massachusetts. Cold stunning is the hypothermic reaction that happens when Sea Turtles are exposed to very cold water for a prolonged period of time. This spring, a total of 10 of the SC’s Sea Turtle Hospital turtles were originally patients of the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program, but were flown for long term care to the facility in Charleston. Several East coast facilities have grouped together to take the overload of sea turtle patients from the New England Aquarium in a huge effort to return these turtles safely to the wild.


The juvenile loggerhead ‘North’ was admitted to the hospital due to a sting ray barb wound. As barb venom is a concern to sea turtles, North was treated as soon as he was transferred over to the South Carolina Aquarium staff. After a few months of treatment, North was cleared for release, along with the 7 Kemp’s Ridley turtles.

Whether you have seen several sea turtle releases or haven’t seen one at all, when you do, you realize how amazing life can be…and who’s there to help you along the way. These turtles fell into the right hands at the right time, and with everything else going on in the world, to have organizations out there that put these turtles’ health first on the list, is truly amazing. For me, yesterday was complete just after North, the Loggerhead, broke the first few waves. After he made it, he popped his head and left flipper up, almost as a thank you for all the hard work these organizations have done for him and his “friends.” It’s been a few days now and we are all confident at this point that these 8 turtles are back with their own, living life to the fullest.

If you’d like to learn more about Sea Turtles and their impact on Kiawah, join us for a Night Beach Walk with one of our experienced Naturalists.