Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Second Chance for 3 Turtles; Georgia Sea Turtle Center Adds to Its Success Stories

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Second Chance for 3 Turtles; Georgia Sea Turtle Center Adds to Its Success Stories

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

FERNANDINA BEACH Marti's flippers were tucked in tight Monday as turtle rehabilitation specialist Amy Hupp carried the 25-pound green sea turtle toward the surf.

The turtle was one of three returned to the wild after rehabilitation at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Almost 200 people were on hand on the sloping shoreline.

Then Hupp and center director Terry Norton stopped as fins sliced through the calf-deep water.

"You guys keep an eye out for those sharks," Norton told his staff, then Hupp splashed through waist-high rollers to release the turtle to cheers from the crowd.

"I was a little nervous at first, but they will have to deal with them [sharks] out there," Hupp said after all three turtles were gone, the last a 200-pound loggerhead treated after her right front flipper was chewed off by a shark.

Seeing the sharks concerned 10-year-old Sidney Jewell, who watched from shore.

"I feel bad for them all because they were all lost, and now they are coming back and being set free," she said. "I feel really bad for the big turtle because of her right arm."

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center has rescued, rehabilitated and released about 2,000 sea turtles since it opened in 2007 on Jekyll Island. Marti was found sick with tumors on Daytona Beach last October, while Duval had a shell infection when he washed ashore in Jacksonville the same week. The center's research vessel caught Squall in June while doing research off Jacksonville, a fresh shark bite to the right front flipper and upper and lower shell.

Norton told the beachfront crowd that Duval had turned into a "robust, fat and happy" animal before he was carried to the ocean by veterinary technician Steven Nelson. Flippers flapping in anticipation, the sleek turtle disappeared under floating pelicans as he headed out to sea. Marti was next, flippers pinwheeling in the air before he too submerged.

Placed in the sand at the surf's edge, Squall haltingly lumbered into the water, the crowd yelling "Come on girl!" as she veered right as if hampered by the missing flipper. The huge turtle submerged, snorting water before she disappeared, only to slide into the surf a few hundred feet south. …

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