turtles back home

Georgia Sea Turtle Center educator Katie Mascovich gives a talk to center visitors Monday about turtles who were evacuated during Hurricane Dorian to Atlanta and have returned to the turtle center.

After a week on the road, the turtles are back.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center celebrated the return of its evacuated patients Monday with free admission and a welcome home presentation and feeding, starring green sea turtle Glitter Mittens.

“Starting a couple weeks ago, we knew that Hurricane Dorian was heading our way, and we prepared early for that,” said Katie Mascovich of the GSTC. “We started getting things together in case we needed to transport animals in the event of an evacuation.

“We actually released seven of our healthy sea turtle patients that were on the release track as it was, because we didn’t want to put them through the shock of evacuation, if we had to do that. You may notice we have some empty tanks here, and that is why, because we released about half of our patients.”

The sea turtle release came with the cooperation of the state Department of Natural Resources and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, according to Kate Harris, senior director of marketing with the Jekyll Island Authority. She added that a number of AmeriCorps members completed their assignments that same day.

One of the turtles released was Manicotti, known as one of the most symbolically adopted turtles in the GSTC’s sea turtle adoption program.

For the turtles staying, in addition to getting the patients ready to move, staff also had to put equipment up, literally, so it would be OK if the facilities flooded. Staff loaded the 89 creatures — sea turtles, diamondback terrapins, etc. — and the equipment that came with them into two vans and a minibus for the trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

With the systems cleaned out and running again, Glitter Mittens received her spot in a tank near the public walkway in the rehabilitation pavilion.

Mascovich said, “Even though green sea turtles will eat primarily green things, as juveniles, they’ll also be omnivorous. … This morning, Glitter Mittens, for her breakfast, will be getting a variety of seafood.”

She got her name because of a quirk of care. She needed assistance breathing, and would wake and flail, with the claws at the end of those flippers pulling out the oxygen tube.

To fix the problem, staff wrapped her flippers in green glitter veterinary wrap, and which made it look like she was wearing glitter mittens.

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