Posted by: adventuressetravels | September 13, 2011

Teenage Mutant Ninja Sea Turtles

There is a juvenile turtle release happening in a few minutes. It’s right down the road from the house.”

The text came at 7:30 in the morning.  I had just gotten back from my morning bike ride.

After almost a month in Florida of trying to force myself into a diurnal schedule my nocturnal body was still not pleased.  Still, a turtle release… that sounded interesting.  After all, the sea turtles had brought me to Florida.

Bathing myself in mosquito repellent, I was out the door a few minutes later, climbed on my bike, and peddled down the gravel drive towards the highway.  And the inlet…

Half a mile down the waterside sidewalk I rolled up to a small crowd and two “Budget” moving trucks.  Carefully laying my little black bike down in the bushes I made my way towards the action.  I was at the juvenile turtle release…

But what exactly was a juvenile turtle release?

I watched as officials pushed one large grey carrying crate down the moving truck ramp.  Three or four people lifted the crate up and hauled it to the nearby inlet.  Inside, a large 3-foot-long turtle scrambled, flippering against the container sides.  He was clearly not happy with his new moving habitat.

This was a juvenile turtle?  I had envisioned cute little baby turtles, maybe a little bigger but this guy easily weighed over 100 pounds!

The container-bearers waded into the water and gently emptied the teenage turtle into the warm water.  The ungainly animal slipped from the container transforming into grace itself as he hit the water.  Relishing its new found freedom, he shot through the murky waves surfacing to gulp deep breaths of the heavy Florida air.  Gliding in circles through the water, the creature seemed incredulous that he could swim so far without bumping into an aquarium wall.  It was the first taste of liberty in his three years.

But why had they waited this long to release these teenage loggerhead turtles into the wild?

I had figured they just wanted to make sure these endangered turtles had a better chance of survival, but keeping them captive for years just didn’t add up.

These particular turtles had been used to test Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) for shrimp trawl nets.  In the past loggerhead turtles would often be caught in the nets.  Not being able to get the surface to get oxygen the ensnared animals would drown.  Though TEDs help turtles escape, improvements can always be made, and these young turtles had been the trial group to help improve the TED design.

These teenage turtles had been locked away in a testing facility and were now being released into the wild… I started to laugh.  Wasn’t this how the teenage mutant ninja turtles got started?  All we needed now was a giant rat to lead the turtles…

Watching the forms flying through the water, relishing the feel of open water flowing past their streamlined shells I didn’t think that any of these turtles had any desire to stick around and fight crime.  You never know though…


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