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Endangered Turtles Released At Kennedy Space Center

July 15, 2010

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is helping with the unprecedented effort to save wildlife from the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first group of hatchlings from endangered sea turtle eggs brought from beaches along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast was released into the Atlantic Ocean off Kennedy’s central Florida coast on July 11. Twenty-two Kemp’s ridley turtles were set free on a Kennedy Space Center beach, which is part of the Canaveral National Seashore.

After being collected on June 26, the Kemp’s ridley nest from Walton County, Fla., was packed in a Styrofoam box with sand and transported by a specially-equipped FedEx truck to a secure, climate-controlled facility at Kennedy where it was monitored until incubation was complete. Most of the nests that will be collected are from loggerhead turtles, but nests from leatherback and green turtles, in addition to Kemp’s ridley, may be brought to the Kennedy hatchery.

In an effort to have a minimal impact on the initial incubating eggs and hatchling releases, there are no opportunities currently planned for news media to visit the Kennedy hatchery or view a turtle release. However, as the ocean release process is refined, it is expected media opportunities will be scheduled. Media who want to be added to a notification list for opportunities should contact Pat Behnke at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The release and relocation work is part of an environmental endeavor by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, NOAA, FedEx and conservationists to help minimize the risk to this year’s sea turtle hatchlings from impacts of the oil spill. During the next several months, this plan involves carefully moving an anticipated 700 nests to Kennedy that have been laid on Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches.

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of Kennedy Space Center, where it shares the land with space shuttle launch pads, rockets and research and development facilities. As part of the Deepwater Horizon Response, six brown pelicans, four laughing gulls and one common tern also were released at Kennedy on June 6.

Video of the hatchery at Kennedy, the nest and release of the first group of hatchlings can be found here

The complete turtle relocation plan, along with other wildlife related plans and recommended wildlife protocols, is available at: http://www.fws.gov/northflorida

For information about the Deepwater Horizon Response, visit: http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

For more information about the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s oil spill response, visit: http://myfwc.com/OilSpill/index.htm

For information about NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kennedy

More still images are available at: http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/index.cfm




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