The turtle was "disoriented" but is now back to swimming around in his natural home.
A gentle giant that wound up stranded on a mudflat in Cape Cod was returned back to his home without any harm. Experts believe that the leatherback sea turtle became "disoriented" before needing some help returning back to the open ocean.
On October 12, passersby informed the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary that a sea turtle was marooned on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, according to Independent. Volunteers from the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary arrived to find the sea turtle, washed up on a mudflat along the Herring River near Wellfleet. The responders did everything to ensure that the turtle was safe before the next step in his rescue could be taken.
"We wanted to keep it off the oysters and keep it from stranding somewhere we couldn't rescue it," said Bob Prescott, director emeritus for Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, as quoted by PEOPLE.
Then, two other organizations—the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the New England Aquarium—got involved to help the 5-foot long turtle, weighing 600-lb, back to sea.
"...We jumped at the chance to help with responders, equipment, and transportation," said Kira Kasper, a biologist for the Marine Mammal Rescue & Research program at IFAW. "To safely move a stranded turtle this large, our specially designed heavy-duty transport cart, stretchers, and mats were ideal—originally designed by IFAW for moving dolphins and other small whales."
After moving the turtle to a safer waterside location, they found that the creature was strong and in a good condition. The rescuers then gave the turtle some vitamins and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. And within no time, the gentle giant was ready to go back to swimming in the open ocean.
"Our initial evaluation indicated that the turtle was very strong and in good body condition, and this helped us to decide that it was a good candidate for release," said Dr. Charles Innis, director of animal health at the New England Aquarium, as quoted by an IFAW press release.
With a crowd surrounding the turtle and cheering him on, the large creature his time and plodded back into the water. His rescuers had a joyous sight to feast their eyes.
Before the turtle was released, he had small identification tags, including a microchip and metal band, placed on him. This will help his rescuers monitor and track whether he is doing well over the next month. Experts will also be able to track his migration patterns for the next decade using an acoustic tag, according to a report released by the New England Aquarium.
"When working with stranded sea turtles in New England, it’s a rarity to have a turtle that is in such good condition," said Dr. Kara Dodge, research scientist at the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. "We suspect this leatherback got disoriented in the tidal flats of Wellfleet and we feel optimistic that it will survive, thanks to the collective rescue efforts of this fantastic group of colleagues."
Cover image source: New England Aquarium