Six rehabilitated sea turtles were released Tuesday morning in Buxton in front of a crowd of over 300 onlookers. Four greens, one Kemp’s ridley, and one loggerhead sea turtle crawled back into the ocean after recovering at the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center located at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Miss Piggy, an adult female loggerhead, received a satellite transmitter before release. Her track will be shared on the Aquarium website if a strong signal is transmitted. A DNA sample was also taken before release. This sample will be compared to DNA collected on nesting beaches from North Carolina to Georgia and will let us know if she nests successfully.
“We don’t normally see adult turtles in the STAR Center,” said Amber Hitt, STAR Center Manager. “Rehabilitating and releasing a turtle that could potentially contribute to the population in the near future brings additional depth to this rewarding job.”
The juvenile green and Kemp’s ridley turtles received PIT tags, or small microchips, inserted into their flippers. These microchips can identify the turtles if they are encountered and scanned in the future. For example, if they strand again or are examined as part of an in-water research project.
The work of stranding response and rehabilitation requires dedication from both staff and volunteers. The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) is the Outer Banks volunteer group responsible for responding to reports of stranded turtles, transporting patients, and helping care for rehabilitating turtles. They also provide sea turtle nest monitoring and protection for the beaches from Nags Head to the Virginia state line. N.E.S.T. president Tony Parisi noted that “N.E.S.T. volunteers work hard to protect and conserve sea turtles on the Outer Banks. In the winter, releases are often done from boats, so volunteers don’t get the chance to attend. Having the opportunity to see six turtles released and have volunteers actively participate is very gratifying.”
If you see a stranded or nesting turtle on the Outer Banks, contact N.E.S.T.’s hotline at 252-441-8622. To learn more about their mission, visit them at nestonline.org.
Learn more about the STAR Center by visiting ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island. The STAR Center is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is included with admission to the Aquarium. Tickets must be purchased in advance through our online ticketing system.