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Rescued sea turtles released

Image of a threatened loggerhead sea turtle
Image of a threatened loggerhead sea turtle

Jill Colton, staff writer

July 17, 2010 — The first group of sea turtles that are part of a massive effort to conserve threatened hatchlings from an oily death in the Gulf of Mexico were released into the Atlantic Ocean this week.

Biologists plucked Kemp's ridley eggs off the beach and released the hatchlings this week
Biologists plucked Kemp's ridley eggs off the beach and released the hatchlings this week

It's the start of a new beginning...hopefully.

Endangered Kemp's ridley turtles were released on a beach at Florida's Canaveral National Seashore this week. A total of 67 eggs were collected from a nest along the Florida Panhandle on June 26 and brought to a temperature-controlled warehouse at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, but sadly only 56 hatched and were released.

Federal officials plan on bringing thousands more eggs for incubation over the next few months. Its all part of an overall plan to pick-up some 70,000 sea turtle eggs across Alabama and Florida before they hatch and swim into the oily Gulf Coast.

NASA currently has around 1,100 eggs incubating at the space center. Scientists fear that if the hatchlings were left alone, they would likely die in the slick, killing off an entire generation of an already endangered species.

The majority of the eggs collected are those of the loggerheads, but there are also eggs from the nests of Kemp's ridleys, who are normally found nesting in Mexico and southern Texas.

Although scientists acknowledge this plan is risky and some of the hatchlings will die from the stress of moving, they all agree there's no better option.

David Godfrey, executive director of the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, says the first release shows that they're on the right track. But at this point, it really is too early to tell.

After the 1979 toxic oil spill in the Gulf, several hundred Kemp's ridley hatchlings were ferried by helicopter to open ocean beyond the crude barrier. However, there's never been an effort this large to help save so many sea turtle eggs.

With files from the Associated Press

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