By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
Four juvenile sea turtles re-entered the Atlantic Ocean at the end of a perfect, 60-degree clear and sunny Thursday Feb. 27, to the delight of 800 supporters who came out to cheer them on.
“They’re healthy now, and ready to go home!” said a Gumbo Limbo representative.
The names of the green sea turtles: Peter Parker 5 to 10 years old; and Ultron, Night Crawler and Yellow Jacket, all 3 to 5 years old.
The sea turtles were rescued, rehabbed and treated by Gumbo Limbo.
Most visually noteworthy of the sea turtles was “Peter Parker,” named after the Spider Man character. The large, 5- to 10-year-old sea turtle was in the worst shape of the four turtles when he was rescued back in November. He has since recovered, but is still missing a flipper (sea turtles have four flippers; two in front, two in back). Nevertheless, Gumbo Limbo’s veterinarian gave him the all-clear to re-enter the wild.
In royal fashion befitting a prince, Peter was hand-carried on a platform down the beach to near the waves. As he got closer to the water, two sea turtle specialists put him down onto the sand, petting him and re-assuring him.
After a few minutes, they gathered him up in their arms and took him the rest of the way out into the ocean. His little flippers could be seen moving in anticipation as he approached the water. He was transported out into the waves, and at just the right moment, let go. A few seconds later, the sea turtle specialists gave a thumbs up, and everyone cheered.
“He did it!” yelled an excited kid at the scene. “What did he do?” asked the parent. “He swam away in the ocean. Is he the biggest one?” the child continued.
Sea turtle specialist Caitlin Bovery described release day as “bittersweet for us. They don’t get attached to us. We do a little bit to them. However, that moment when the turtle makes it through the waves is — Euphoria!”
Asked whether the turtles are okay in cold weather, Bovery continued, “They really don’t like cold weather. This is temperate [today]… All the sea turtles treated in the center are sick or injured. They rely on the public to report it. If you see a sea turtle on the beach who is not moving, report it to Fish & Wildlife [Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)] and Gumbo Limbo.”
Chair of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District Susan Vogelgesang had her feet in the water along with the crowd. “This is just one of the best things we do. It’s not about spending money. It’s about what can we do for the relation between the ocean and land. We want kids and the schools to understand. That was Gordon Gilbert’s mission. He was one of the great forces to inspire everybody.”
Susan Walker, on the Board of Directors for Friends of Gumbo Limbo said,” I love the sea turtles! They all get their own personality during recovery. Peter Parker was in very bad shape when he came in, with one of his flippers. A lot of people have really connected with him.”
Release of the other three sea turtles followed. Each were small enough for one person to carry.
Cameramen from local stations were among the many taking pictures of the momentous occasion. Brady, 2, and Aidan, 3, from Boca Raton, attended with their mom Tianna.
The event held beyond the Middle Tunnel at Spanish River Park officially started at 4:30 p.m. and was over by 4:44 p.m. — with mission accomplished; all four of the sea turtles launched.
Sea Turtle Nesting Season began March 1 and runs through Oct. 31.
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center also held a ‘Sea Turtle Day’ on March 7 to celebrate its 35th anniversary. For more information on events such as Sea Turtle Camp, scheduled Sea Turtle Walks, and Hatchling Releases go to www.gumbolimbo.org. or call 561-544-8605.