Baby Turtles Scramble Into the Gulf in Morning Release

There was another big turtle release out at the National Seashore Thursday morning, as officials showed off their successful incubation program and their research into whether the BP oil spill two summers ago had an any effect on the endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles.

Scientists at the Harte Institute at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi said that the Gulf of Mexico has handled the oil spill well, with little effect on the sealife. Still, the National Park Service is looking closely to make sure that holds true for endangered reptiles.

It is believed that only four out of the 94 baby Kemp's Ridley turtles, which were released to make their way into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning, will ever make it to adulthood.

Several hundred people showed up to watch the endangered animals make their mad dash to the Gulf.

"All of them were like, running, so yeah they seemed to be pretty excited," said Sara Schey, a spectator that said she loves turtles.

Meanwhile, in a lab just down the road, park scientists have been busy cutting up dead hatchlings to see if there is a link between their deaths and the 2010 BP oil spill. That accident dumped five million gallons of crude into the Gulf.

Scientists said it is rare for a hatchling to die, but it does happen. For the past two years, British Petroleum paid for this research. Now, the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is covering the cost.

It will be a couple of years before the research is complete, work that also includes placing satellite transmitters on the creatures to track their movements. It's a program that has been in place since 1997, but now it will also help scientists figure out if the Kemp's have been exposed to any hazardous levels of pollution as a result of the oil spill.

If you missed Thursday morning's turtle release, there is another one planned for Friday; but before you head out for the 6:45 a.m. release, you need to call the Hatchling Hotline sometime after 2 a.m. to ensure that the event is still on.

Remember to bring your camera, and it's a good idea to dress for the beach.

Hatchling Hotline: 361-949-7163


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