A batch of freshly hatched sea turtles displaced by hurricanes Irma and Jose have been given a new lease on life as a Florida zoo ensured their safe release back into the wild.
Officials from Brevard Zoo, Barrier Island Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sea Turtle Preservation Society delivered nearly 1,500 hatchlings and washbacks — young turtles literally washed back after swimming offshore — to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Center on Monday.
Staff and volunteers tirelessly cared for and watched over the green and loggerhead sea turtles as they recovered from the ordeal.
“Fortunately the turtles that we've received the last three days have been healthy, fairly new off the beach, a week, maybe two weeks old,” said Melanie Stadler, the Brevard Zoo's sea turtle program coordinator.
“[They were] not emaciated, very active," she added. "We want to get them out as soon as possible. We don’t want them to be with us for very long."
The young reptiles were transferred to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and spent the night at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, the Brevard Zoo said.
They were then placed on offshore mats of seaweed Friday, officials said.
Authorities cautioned that though the turtles are now safe, wildlife may still be at risk as further natural disasters loom.
“Although the number of troubled turtles found on Florida’s eastern coast has lessened significantly in recent days, the behavior of Jose and future hurricanes could create another crisis in the coming weeks,” a statement from the zoo said.
To learn what to do if you find a washback, click here.