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Nine endangered sea turtles finally released back into Gulf after suffering cold-stunning in December

More than three months after being found washed up on the coast and nearly freezing, the Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network has let some of the turtles return home.
Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

NEW ORLEANS — The Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network has released nine endangered sea turtles back into the Gulf after suffering a cold-stunning in December.

On the week of Christmas, an arctic blast brought record-low temperatures, airport chaos, and historic winter storms to some areas across the country – and it was no different for those living underwater.

During the arctic blast, the Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network, stationed in New Orleans, took 19 stranded sea turtles suffering a “cold-stunning” into their care. Symptoms of cold-stunnings include decreased heart and respiration rates, decreased circulation, lethargy, and floating on the surface of the water. Some cases can lead to shock and pneumonia, according to the Audubon Nature Institute.

18 of the rescued animals were Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles – a critically endangered species. The CWN says they were all between two and four years old, and were found washed up on the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The other one, Rebecca, was a green sea turtle rescued from Port Fourchon. The CWN says she was released back into her natural habitat on February 15th.

“It is tremendously rewarding to see them swim back into the Gulf of Mexico,” said Audubon Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding, Rescue, and Rehab Coordinator Gabriella Harlamert. 

Over the last three months of rehabilitation, the CWN staff seems to have developed a connection with the turtles. Staff even named all 18 Kemp’s Ridleys after herbs and spices. Their names are -- Basil, Thyme, Cilantro, Oregano, Sesame, Paprika, Saffron, Chachere (but sometimes referred to as Tony), Cinnamon, Cayenne, Nutmeg, Chicory, Mint, Lavender, Ginger, Tabasco, Rosemary, and Wasabi.

The CWN has not specified which ones were released and which ones are still recovering.

The nine remaining turtles are still in recovery at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in Algiers. They will be released in Grand Isle when they are ready.

If you see a stranded marine animal, dead or alive, you are urged to call the Coastal Wildlife Network at (877) 942-5343. Be prepared to tell them the exact location and/or GPS coordinates, pictures of the animal, size, and if the animal is dead or alive. The CWN advises you to not try to push the animal back into the water.

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