To close out 2015, the SeaWorld Orlando Animal Rescue Team spent New Years Eve returning three Kemp's ridley sea turtles to the warm Florida waters by Canaveral National Seashore. Kemp's ridley are the world's most endangered species of sea turtle. The sea turtles spent over a year at SeaWorld Orlando's rehabilitation facility after being rescued from the frigid New England waters in November 2014.
The three Kemp's ridley sea turtles returned to the ocean were the last remaining of the 72 sea turtles rescued during a mass stranding off the Massachusetts coast. They were transferred to SeaWorld Orlando from the New England Aquarium by the U.S. Coast Guard for rehabilitation and expert care.
Ranging from 4.1 to 4.6 pounds at the time of rescue, the turtles thrived during their rehabilitation, gaining significant strength and weight. Upon their return, the three turtles weighed between 9 and 15.8 pounds.
The SeaWorld team worked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on the return location for these Kemp's ridley sea turtles, which are found near the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast. The same species and size class are found along the Florida coast at this time of year.
Kemp's ridley sea turtles are endangered primarily due to egg collection and other human activities. However, due to the strict protection and help of organizations such as SeaWorld, the population is on its way to recovery.
Throughout 2015, SeaWorld Orlando rescued 64 sea turtles and returned 91 to the ocean. Last year marked a record year of rescues, rehabilitations and returns for the Orlando Animal Rescue Team, with more than 600 animals rescued and rehabilitated.