PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS — Ninety-five baby sea turtles were released into the ocean during a public release event on Padre Island Wednesday morning.
The Kemp's ridley sea turtles are among the most critically endangered sea turtle species in the world and nest on the Texas coast.
"We've been working for more than 40 years on a bi-national project to try to help save this species and reestablish nesting by this native species here at Padre Island," said Dr. Donna Shaver, chief of the division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.
This was the 23rd public release of the year and one of the last of the season.
"Our public releases are a win-win. We release the turtles when they are biologically ready for release, and they need to be released, but also at a time when we can accommodate safe viewing by the public," Shaver said. "We had a crowd of more than 300 people here to help send these little ones off on their lifelong journey."
At sunrise, park rangers helped guide the public to the release site from the Malaquite Beach Visitors Center at the national seashore. An educational program took place before the release to help visitors understand the incubation process and protective care services that the park rangers operate each year.
"From April through mid-July, we look for tracks left in the sand. Sometimes the nesting turtle is still there, sometimes not. She will never come back to look for her eggs. The eggs, if they're left on the beach, they can fall victim to high tide, predators, and all sorts of things can kill them," Shaver said. "So, we retrieve the eggs for protective care."
Five nest detection and protection programs help patrol the coastal region from Padre Island to the Texas and Louisiana state border.
Any abandoned nests found on the shore are brought to an incubation facility at the Padre Island National Seashore before being released by the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery.
A total of 190 Kemp's ridley nests were found along the Texas coast this year.
"It's a solid year, but we're hoping that we see another increase in the next few years," Shaver said. "We are still very concerned about the population and the trend that might be on."