Gentle waves helped the hatchlings head to the sea. When stronger tidal waves washed in, the water flipped them in the air, then washed them back to shore.
Approximately 150 people circled the release area and encouraged the little turtles to begin their lives in the sea. Parents focused their children on the babies’ attempts to reach the water. They interspersed facts about the turtles and discussed our responsibility to endangered wildlife. Children laughed and clapped when each turtle reached the sea. Cameras clicked everywhere. The Sea Life staff took ‘up close and personal’ photos for anyone who offered their cameras.
Odds for survival are not in a turtle’s favor. In the wild, hatchlings have a 1 in 1,000 chance of reaching adulthood. The nest relocation and hatching release program increases the survival rate to 1 in 333. It’s a little sad to think that none of the babies released today may survive.
If they do, they will return to the sands of Padre Island eleven or twelve years from now when they reach maturity. It is thought that they return within 50-100 miles of their natal beach. In the 1990s, the Sea Turtle Center, implanted a piece of wire in a flipper of each hatchling and released them on a beach in northern Mexico, within the 50-mile range. None of these turtles have been sighted on South Texas beaches. No one knows if some of them are here but never seen, or if none survived.
Sea Turtle Inc. is one of many organizations through the world trying to save endangered species. For the Kemp Ridley, their efforts are reaping rewards. In the 1940s, more than 40,000 turtles laid eggs; by the 1990s that number had dropped to little more than 600. Through the work of many people, these numbers are slowly turning around.
For more information on `sea turtle rescue and release programs, check out www.seaturtleinc.org.