July 4, 2008
Sea Turtle Swims Free into the Wild
JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. - Terry Norton stood waist-deep in the ocean 100 yards from the beach, watching the sea turtle poke her head above the water for breaths, a little farther out each time, before raising his arm and pointing out to sea in triumph.
Dylan, a 150-pound loggerhead, was free in the ocean Monday after spending her entire nine years in captivity on Jekyll Island and at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
"Every time I saw her breathe, she was going in the right direction," Dr. Norton, the head veterinarian at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, said after wading back to shore. "I just wanted to make sure."
About 300 people crowded the beach for Dylan's departure and cheered when Dr. Norton signaled from the water that turtle was on her way out to sea.
Loggerhead sea turtles like Dylan are classified as a threatened species. She spent 13 months at the Sea Turtle Center with caretakers preparing her to return to the wild.
Humans raised Dylan since she was found in August 1998 as a hatchling straggler on Jekyll Island's beach. She spent years at two nature centers before moving to the Georgia Aquarium in November 2005.
Dylan began outgrowing her surroundings at the aquarium. She also grew restless, getting into a scuffle with her sea turtle roommate, Joey. The aquarium decided to return Dylan to her island birthplace to be set free.
Wildlife biologists hope Dylan will someday return to Jekyll or another beach along the 100 miles of Georgia coast to lay eggs. But they'll have to wait. It will take about 20 more years for her to be old enough to have offspring.
The satellite transmitter on her back should give frequent updates on her whereabouts whenever she surfaces long enough for it to send a transmission. Dylan is the first sea turtle released from the Georgia Aquarium.
Originally published by Associated Press.
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