Nine sea turtles and hundreds of their fans shared a moment of victory on the Outer Banks on Wednesday.
Five green sea turtles, three Kemp’s ridley and a loggerhead paddled back into their natural environment in a release at Coquina Beach on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The green and Kemp’s ridley were among nearly 200 turtles admitted over the winter to the N.C. Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation Center on Roanoke Island, where they were treated for cold-stunning.
Cold-stunning is a hypothermia-like condition that occurs when water temperatures drop rapidly and turtles don't have time to get back out to the gulf stream, aquarium spokesman Brian Postelle said.
The loggerhead was treated for injuries from a shark bite.
Aquarium staff and interns worked with volunteers form the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles and National Park Service in the release.
“Beach releases like these are great because everyone involved with recovering, transporting and treating these turtles gets a chance to be there,” STAR Center Manager Amber White said after a release of 12 sea turtles on Ocracoke Island in April. “Plus, our community gets to come out and cheer them on.”
Of the seven species of sea turtles in the world, five species call the waters of North Carolina home — the loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, leather-back, green and hawksbill.
People who find sea turtles stranded in the water or on land can increase their chances of survival by calling NEST at 252-441-8622.
Experts say filling holes on the beach and knocking down sand castles also helps sea turtle hatchlings make it more safely from their nests to the surf.