Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kiawah Turtle Release - June 18, 2013

     Everyone should have a friend like my friend Karen.  Monday night she calls and tells me that there would be a turtle release on Kiawah the next morning.  I was able to rearrange a meeting with my new teaching partner, and I loaded the kids (and my mom) in the car and headed out for the 2.5 hour drive.
   We got there as soon as the park opened up.  I was THRILLED to go to this beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous, and with lifeguards (necessary for my family because of rip currents). Our Charleston area islands have a tradition of the "turtle ladies."  These women (I'm sure there are men too) walk the beaches on the coast everyday to look for new turtle nests, mark them, and supervise their hatchings.  They remind beach front owners to keep porch lights off in the summer (it confuses the new hatchlings) and their overall goal is conservation and education.  If I lived down there I would thoroughly join their group every summer.  Their goal is to make sure everyone leaves the big girls alone as they lay their eggs, and not bother nests, so that populations of these turtles will increase.

      While the ladies set up, we staked out our spot on the line with our chairs and then went to explore a little.  This release had been well publicized so a lot of people were expected. We were excited to find a starfish....

 which we all took a turn holding until we tried to toss him back into the ocean.

We also found a critter in his shell - which not everyone wanted to touch.

     We walked around and found out they were releasing one loggerhead turtle and seven Kemps Ridley turtles.  The Charleston Aquarium has a wonderful sea turtle hospital, and all of these turtles had been rehabilitated and were ready to go back to being wild.

More info on the Turtle Hospital

Close to the release, folks really started lining up.  The ladies had created barrier lines and the crowd lined that runway for a good look. 

Even though the tide was coming in, some stood in the surf for a good look, while respectfully keep their distance. 

     First up was the loggerhead.  As soon as they put him down he knew exactly where he anted to be.  They did stop him for a minute for pictures....
but then let him go.  He was not visible for long. 

With the Kemp's they had turtle ladies bring them down two at a time. One lady would walk one side of the line, and the other would cover the folks on the far side.  Kids were brought in from the crowd to carry signs with the turtle's name on it.  These 7 were caught up north when the water was too cold, so they were brought down here to get back in shape. 

 The ladies were great about answering questions and really letting people see the turtles without it being too invasive to the animal.  They also stood by and followed the turtle out a bit so that it wouldn't accidentally swim into the folks standing in the water.  People down here are well versed in how to behave.  It was such a great opportunity for my girls  to see two different kinds of turtles from the green turtles we saw in Hawaii last summer, and learn a bit about conservation.  At some point I'm going to have to bring the kids back to this beach this summer and get in some more ocean time. 

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