By OMAR ZAPATA
Six Atlantic green sea turtles that spent a combined 350 days in the hospital for rehabilitation received a second chance at life this week as they were released back into wild off South Padre Island.
Hundreds of viewers gathered behind the South Padre Island Convention Centre on Monday, July 18, to watch the nonprofit Sea Turtle Inc. release Gem, Gylly, Igneous, Mango, Mars and Sprout into the Laguna Madre.
“We were lucky enough to be able to have a public release of rehabbed patients” Sea Turtle Inc CEO Wendy Knight told the Current at the event. “Because rehab patients, it’s important that we get them released as soon as they’re medically ready. We had a big influx of rehab patients in the last probably 60 days. So when we get an opportunity … we want to have a public release because that’s when the community really gets to see the results of all the work that they’ve done.”
Sea Turtle Inc., founded in 1977, has a focus on rehabilitation, conservation and education about sea turtles. Going strong and marking its 45th year, the group now has 19 employees and hundreds of volunteers, which Knight said are an essential critical part of the organization.
In the middle of nesting season, the nonprofit has protected 95 nesting females and 9800 sea turtle eggs in the last seven weeks.
“It is back breaking work,” she said. “An exhausting time of year, so to be able to have events like this, it’s revitalizing, you know, this is what it’s about … having moments like this with the community and seeing the impact and the emotion that people feel by seeing it, it’s rejuvenating.”
Holsen Moore, a Sea Turtle Inc. volunteer for eight months, received the opportunity to be a part of the release by carrying the turtle out to the water.
Holding Mango, Moore said it was his first time ever touching a sea turtle. His usual duties volunteering include observing the turtles to make sure they remain safe.
Asked how it felt to be a part of releasing the turtles back into the ocean, he replied, “ It was really great, and that’s why I like volunteering because they do a lot of good work with the turtles.”
Volunteers also help with spotting and reporting sea turtles in need of help.
Jessica Flores, a scheduler and coordinator at SpaceX who reported Mars stuck in the rocks on Boca Chica beach, had the opportunity to see and witness a healthy Mars released back into the water.
“Its very awesome to see [Sea Turtle Inc.] take care of him and get him back to his waters,” the Brownsville resident said.
Asked how it felt to see Mars healthy and given a second chance at life, Flores replied: “It’s a blessing. It feels so good and I feel so proud and honored … they’re beautiful creatures and I love that I had the opportunity at something I never thought I’d be able to do.”
Knight said SpaceX helped during the 2021 cold stun, which endangered the local turtle population. Further, SpaceX has been helping with the spotting and rescue of turtles on Boca Chica beach, she said.
“Since then, they have trained for cold stun events, they’re part of our nesting patrol, they go on ride alongs with our staff to help have different sets of eyes and ears out so we can know what’s going on during nesting season,” Knight said. “We have employees that actually stay overnight on the SpaceX facility. Once upon a time we spent two hours in the car, one hour there and one hour back and that’s two hours that we didn’t get to patrol.”
To volunteer with the nonprofit, Knight said it is as easy as walking through their doors at 6617 Padre Blvd. or engaging with them on their website at seaturtleinc.org.
“The experience that you can have by seeing our hospital and what we do day to day is wonderful,” she said.