Conservation & Research

On Monday, April 17, Georgia Aquarium released eight rescued sea turtles off the coast of Jekyll Island, GA.

Earlier this year, Georgia Aquarium welcomed 11 sea turtles (four loggerhead sea turtles and seven Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles) to their off-site care facility for temporary care and housing after they were found off the coast of New England suffering from cold-stunning – a condition in which sea turtles become weak and inactive from exposure to cold temperatures. The Aquarium’s animal care and veterinary teams have since been providing exceptional care for these animals so that they can be released back into the ocean.

While at Georgia Aquarium’s off-site rehabilitation and quarantine facility, these 11 sea turtles received uninterrupted care from animal care and vet teams. A few of these turtles received advanced imaging through CAT scans at BluePearl Veterinary Hospitals to help monitor their care. Following health care check-ups, eight of the 11 rescued turtles (six Kemp’s Ridley and two loggerhead sea turtles) were cleared to be released back into the ocean. The remaining three sea turtles were transferred to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, GA where they will continue to receive care until they are strong enough to be released. Staff from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center assisted the four aquarists from Georgia Aquarium in releasing the eight turtles back into the ocean and providing beachgoers the rare opportunity to see these turtles up close as they were released.

See the turtles’ arrival posts here: Instagram, TikTok, Newsroom

An increasing number of sea turtles have become cold-stunned due to exposure to the colder temperatures. Cold-stunning causes turtles to become very weak and inactive, similar to hypothermia. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) actively plans for cold-stunning events months in advance – organizing and deploying resources to look for and assist cold-stunned turtles. Georgia Aquarium is part of this multi-institutional effort alongside other zoos, aquariums, and rescue organizations to save hundreds of turtles each year. Nearly all species of sea turtle are now classified as endangered, some species including Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Six species are found in U.S. waters, all of which are listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Georgia Aquarium’s dedicated staff helps not only animals at the Aquarium, but anywhere by offering temporary housing and care to animals in the wild, like these sea turtles. Each year, the Aquarium works alongside other zoos and aquariums across the country to help give cold-stunned turtles temporary homes to warm up and gain strength. These operations help to save many turtles and would not be possible without the generous support of organizations like Turtles Fly Too, whose pilots donated their time, planes, and fuel to get these turtles to their temporary homes. Without the intervention of zoos, aquariums, and partners like National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these turtles could develop secondary health problems or potentially die.

For photos and video assets of the release please see below:

Photo / Video Credit: Georgia Aquarium


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