ASSATEAGUE — The loggerhead turtle hatchling rescued from the beach at Assateague in advance of Hurricane Sandy in late October continues to progress and has been moved to rehabilitation facility in North Carolina in what will likely be a final stop before a return to the wild in the near future.
On Oct. 26, 2012, just about two days before Hurricane Sandy arrived in the mid-Atlantic area, biological technicians and other staff from the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) of the National Aquarium in Baltimore excavated a loggerhead sea turtle nest from the north end of Assateague Island National Seashore in advance of the storm. The loggerhead nest, one of the first viable ever discovered on Assateague, contained three live hatchlings and 160 potentially viable eggs, which had been incubating in the warm sand since the end of July.
The excavation of the nest was planned because the window for viability of the hatchlings and eggs was ready to expire, but the pending arrival of Sandy expedited the project. With Sandy bearing down on the mid-Atlantic region, MARP staffers moved quickly to excavate the entire loggerhead nest and were surprised to find three hatchlings had survived.
The entire nest, including the three live hatchlings, were carefully packed in sand and taken back to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Unfortunately, two of the live hatchlings succumbed to infections in the days following the excavation. In addition, each of the remaining eggs were carefully monitored and no more live hatchlings were discovered.
However, one of the hatchlings survived and has been carefully monitored over the last two months to the point it is nearly ready to be released. In the days following its rescue, the young sea turtle began eating on its own. Soon after, it started swimming strongly and enjoyed supervised dives closely monitored by MARP staffers to build endurance. According to MARP staffers, the young hatchling rescued from Assateague recently reached another milestone with its first overnight swim and has now been moved to a facility in North Carolina more experienced in sea turtle rehabilitations for the final leg of its journey back to the sea.
“The little one has moved to the North Carolina Aquarium Pine Knolls Shore facility with the intent of continuing long-term rehab,” said Kate Hendrickson, Media Relations Manager for the National Aquarium in Baltimore. “The hatchling will then be released at a later date. It’s doing great and the rehab has been a success.”