Munchkin, Largest Loggerhead Turtle Ever Rescued in New England, Swims Back to the Sea

Jul 3, 2019

Munchkin, a 340 lb loggerhead sea turtle, pauses at the shore, sniffing the air, before returning to the sea. A team from the New England Aquarium released her after seven months of rehabilitation.
Credit Eve Zuckoff

Hundreds of spectators crowded onto West Dennis beach Tuesday night to watch volunteers and scientists from the New England Aquarium release a 340 lb loggerhead sea turtle back into the ocean. 

She's the the largest loggerhead ever rescued and rehabilitated in New England. Her name is Munchkin. 

On November 22, volunteers for the Mass Audobon Sanctuary found her on a Wellfleet beach--anemic, hypothermic, and emaciated at 301 lbs. 

She sustained injuries to her front and back flippers that are consistent with entanglement. 

Tom Sullivan was one of the volunteers who originally found Munchkin. After watching her successful release back into the water, he described the moment as bittersweet.  

"I mean, what could be better to see a turtle like this go back where it should be, you know?" he said. "I loved seeing [her] in the tank, but it wasn’t where [she] should be." 

After finding her, a team rushed her to the New England Aquarium, where she spent seven months recovering and waiting for the ocean to be warm enough for a safe release. 

Biologists and researchers will  spend the next year tracking her location using a satellite tag. As a female of breeding age, and a member of an endangered species, they hope to see her reproduce. 

A team from the New England Aquarium has attached a satellite tracker to Munchkin's shell. It will allow them to follow her movements and behaviors for the next year.
Credit Eve Zuckoff

Bob Prescott, Director of Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, helped transport Munchkin off Wellfleet Beach and into the New England Aquarium for seven months of rehab. He described her condition then as  "touch and go," and says he's deeply grateful  to the Aquarium’s team. 

"We found her when she was near death and they  brought her back to life. Now she’s ready to go and we’ll be able to see what she does when she goes back into the wild," he said." "You know, that’s a great story."  

It took over half an hour and 15 volunteers to get Munchkin onto the sand, where she raced down the beach, pausing just before she dove back into the water.

Volunteers and scientists for the New England Aquarium watch was Munchkin makes her way down the beach. The massive sea turtle is returning to the water after spending seven months recovering from hypothermia, anemia, and serious wounds to her front and back flippers.
Credit Eve Zuckoff

--

You can follow Munchkin along on her journey through the New England Aquarium's tracking system