Crest Rehabbed, Returned to Open Ocean

Crest Rehabbed, Returned to Open Ocean

Finally! After almost five months of tender loving care from the employees of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island and a multitude of NEST volunteers, Crest was ready to hit the waves on the Cape Hatteras National Park beach!

When she arrived sick at the aquarium on 6 June 2015 (see OBX Sea Turtles (2015) – Nest #1), she was emaciated and at death’s door. She was extremely anemic and underweight. For five months she has been contained in a 500-gallon tank on her way to recovery. She gained 40 pounds and was totally rehabilitated and more than ready to go home.

This result was made possible by a very generous donation from Pittsburgh, PA resident Casey Ball. She and her fiancé visited the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) center in October and fell in love with Crest. Many other live stranded sea turtles on the Outer Banks will benefit from their sponsorship. On very short notice, Casey was able to meet the turtle caregivers and have a photo-op with Crest beneath the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. After the photo-op, Crest was more than eager to be on her way home.

Identified by NEST volunteer Anne Brown and her neighbor, five year-old Zoe Calhoun, she headed straight for the waves. It must have been wonderful for her to be able to feel the wind in her face, smell the salty sea and plunge into the biggest fish tank in the world. We would love to have her return to our beaches to nest. Hopefully with information from the DNA research project at the University of Georgia we will know when she returns.

She almost seemed to be smiling as she crawled to the sea—maybe she was remembering the visitors and lifeguards who found her on the beach, the NEST volunteers and aquarium employees who nursed her back to health, and all of the onlookers cheering her on as she left the sand for the home that she loves! We will miss her but know she is where she belongs.

The video below shows Crest entering the ocean and, in a sense, returning home. The music in the video is from Antonin Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, which includes a song that was adapted into the song “Going Home.”

We would love to think her empty tank is no longer needed, but we know soon that we will be receiving cold-stunned turtles to fill our tanks and keep us busy. Sea turtles are cold-blooded animals. Their body temperature is controlled by the environment they are in. When the air and water temperatures drop as winter approaches, some of the turtles do not get to the warm water of the Gulf Stream in time. Their body temperatures drop with the air and sea temperatures, and their bodies become too cold and shut down. The lucky ones wash ashore before they are dead. Many people patrol the beaches and notify us when a turtle is found. If we can get a turtle to the STAR center in time, we can often rehabilitate the animal. Then, in the spring when the water warms up, we can have another turtle release party. Seeing and treating the sick endangered sea turtles is hard work but the reward of a release makes it all worthwhile.

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