Hundreds came out to the Isle of Palms yesterday to see the first rehabilitated sea turtles of the season be set free. Three sea turtles, two loggerheads and a Kemp’s ridley, were released back into the ocean. The South Carolina Aquarium takes care of and rehabilitates injured sea turtles. They normally release them as they recover, which is usually when the ocean temperatures are warm enough. There are 21 others that are still in treatment who will eventually be released.

Some of us had the chance to attend the event and witness Birdie, Manteo, and Taylor crawl down the sand back to the beach. Manteo and Taylor are loggerheads, and both were cold-stunned off of New England and North Carolina’s coasts over the winter. Birdie is a Kemp’s Ridley from South Carolina that was entangled in fishing line.

Isle of Palms works avidly to try and prevent these types of accidents. The Isle of Palms Turtle Team is a group of volunteers that works to protect nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. They can identify and mark nests, use probes to locate eggs, and transport or transfer sea turtle specimens to South Carolina.

Unfortunately, threats such as poaching of nests and natural threats like predators and beach erosion are contributing factors to a decrease in the sea turtle population. The Turtle Team does an amazing job at making sure that Isle of Palms citizens and guests of the island are fully aware of ways to keep nesting successful. Owners and visitors are strongly encouraged to make sure to clean up beach items such as tents, chairs, and umbrellas, to fill in holes, and to clean up debris. It is also against the law on Isle of Palms to leave on beachfront lights, as this discourages females from nesting and can confuse hatchlings trying to find the ocean.

So if you’re enjoying the beautiful beaches and you see a loggerhead coming out of the ocean to nest, just remember to gaze at her beauty from a distance!

By Liz Poore