Boron, Sodium, Arsenic and four other rescued sea turtles named for elements on the periodic table were finally healthy enough to be released back into the wild on Wednesday.
“This batch never looked back at us,” laughed Adam Kennedy, a senior biologist who oversaw the turtles’ care at the New England Aquarium in Boston. “Sometimes they’ll pop up and you can kind of watch them as they head out, but they all just kind of put their heads down and took off. So it was pretty cool.”
The five endangered Kemp’s ridley and two loggerhead sea turtles spent seven to eight months rehabilitating at the aquarium after being discovered near death on beaches around Cape Cod Bay last winter. To avoid more strandings, they were released today into Nantucket Sound from West Dennis Beach.
When volunteers with the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary found the turtles, all were starving and cold-stunned from weeks of hypothermia.
“They look dead,” explained Bob Prescott, who leads Mass Audubon’s sea turtle rescues. “I mean, when you pick them up they don’t move at all.”
But today, the seven recuperated reptiles showed no signs of poor health.
The loggerheads, with their yellow bellies and massive heads, are the more anxious of the species, so they were released first. While Nickel squirmed right into the water, another, named Titanium, lingered on the shore.
Titanium’s hesitance was especially endearing to Linda Lory, a senior biologist at the aquarium who said of all the turtles, she’ll miss that one most.
“He was a good case because at first we weren’t sure if he was going to be released because he was just not eating, not gaining weight. We weren’t sure what was going on,” Lory said, though later added it’s not clear what gender turtles are until they’re adults. “But after some diagnostics and antibiotics and everything he kind of just turned around.”
“So you have these special cases that you kind of get drawn to.”
Kennedy seconded the feeling, describing Titanium as “just a different type of turtle.”
“Usually you can put the food in and they’ll come over and eat right away,” he said. “We had to kind of walk away and let her just be her, or him.”
Before the turtles were released, satellite tags were fastened to their shells and bodies so researchers can monitor their whereabouts.
Because concerns about COVID-19 limited the number of people who could engage with the reptiles, select staff biologists grew particularly close to this group of sea turtles.
“I have an affinity for loggerheads,” Lory said. “It’s kind of bittersweet … but this is the goal.”
“Exactly,” agreed Kennedy. “This is why we do what we do.”
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of senior biologist Adam Kennedy. It is Adam, not Dan Kennedy.