Turtle Treks: WOW’s Sea Turtle Center Continues Contribution to Conservation

Published June 13, 2024

For the first time ever, Wonders of Wildlife will be able to track five recently released sea turtle residents of the Johnny Morris Sea Turtle Center. Location trackers were placed on the shells of five loggerhead sea turtles, thanks to a generous grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund.  

These SPOT-375 tags were affixed to the turtles’ shells with the help of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center team — knowledgeable leaders in nationwide sea turtle rescue efforts. The tags will allow WOW to track the migration routes and whereabouts of the loggerhead turtles after their release. This data is crucial for understanding and preventing future beach strandings.

Along with loggerhead sea turtles, WOW also helped rehabilitate green sea turtles and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles for the first time. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest species of sea turtle and are flagged as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

While loggerhead and green sea turtles are not as threatened according to their IUCN classification, it is crucial these species are cared for, and the public is educated on their importance to the ocean. Ms. Pam and Izzy are two resident green sea turtles in the Open Ocean exhibit located at the beginning of your Aquarium Adventure. They are permanent ambassadors for all sea turtle species and help share the story of sea turtles across the world to guests who visit WOW each and every day. 

The Sea Turtle Center – which cannot be seen by the public due to regulations set in place by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – continues to grow each year and has been a temporary home for more than 40 sea turtles since its opening in 2020. All have suffered from cold stunning – a common event where water temperatures drop too quickly, causing sea turtles to become susceptible to illnesses like pneumonia, hypothermia, and dehydration. Affected sea turtles wash up on beaches and are rushed to local facilities to receive care. 

For the past four years, all sea turtles have come from the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts, with flight assistance from Turtles Fly Too. This year’s class arrived on January 25th

After months of being closely monitored and given the necessary care to help them regain their strength, the sea turtles began eating aggressively and eventually successfully captured live prey. These signs were observed by our Life Sciences team which let them know the turtles were ready to return to their ocean home.  

Turtles Fly Too, a private air carrier service dedicated to transporting rescued sea turtles, transferred them from Springfield, Missouri, to Jekyll Island, Georgia, on May 14th. The turtles were then released back into their natural habitat with the help of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center team.

Rescue, rehabilitation, and tracking are vital pieces of ensuring the longevity of sea turtles for generations to come. The implementation of tracking tags by the aquarists and keepers will position WOW as a valued contributor to cold-stunning research.  

From our dedicated members to the generous grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, our team hopes to continue sharing the story of sea turtle rescues for years to come. To help us support our mission of conservation, you can round up your purchase in-store or online at any Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s. 

To learn more about the recently released turtles, their journey to WOW, and more, be sure to visit wondersofwildlife.org/sea-turtles. You can also follow the path of the five loggerheads with trackers as they journey through the seas! Be sure to follow us on social media for up-to-date information on the Turtle Tracker and other exciting aquarium news.