Friday, June 24, 2016

A Sea Turtle Goes Home

Welcome Home sign

This week I had the opportunity to witness something really special – the release of a rehabilitated sea turtle back into the Gulf of Mexico. This is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time so when I got an email from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium that they were releasing Kreacher, a young loggerhead turtle, from Clearwater Beach, I had to go.
Kreacher was found floating half a mile off of Clearwater Beach on May 8. After being treated at the CMA for gastrointestinal problems, she was well and ready to go back home. Before the release, the CMA partnered with the Sea Turtle Conservancy to attach a satellite tracking device to Kreacher’s shell for research purposes. This was CMA’s second turtle to be fitted with a tracking tag. Ozzy, released last September, traveled all the way up to the Outer Banks of North Carolina before her tag stopped working a few months later.

The release was scheduled for 11 o’clock behind the Sandpearl Resort. I got to the beach a little after 10 just in case I had trouble finding the right location, but I couldn’t have missed it. The event was a lot larger than I had expected. There were two sets of bleachers set up on the beach for viewers and a huge Welcome Home sign over the path that Kreacher would travel down to the water. A Coast Guard boat and a CMA rescue boat patrolled offshore to keep other watercraft from motoring into the area.

Since I’d gotten there early, I was able to nab an ideal spot, standing along the railing near the release point with a clear view down to the water. But a few minutes before Kreacher was to arrive, a group of CMA executives and board members showed up and stood right in front, almost completely blocking the view of people, including kids, who had been waiting for an hour in the sun. Poor form, board members, very poor form!
Fortunately, between all the executives’ backs and heads I was able to see enough to get a couple of pictures. A team of CMA biologists carried Kreacher in a large plastic tub down the beach to the water and the turtle was carefully placed onto the sand. She hesitated for a few seconds, unsure about all the people and cameras. But then she made up her mind and took off into the waves as everyone cheered. She raised her head once for air and was gone. It always amazes me how slow and clumsy sea turtles are on land but how graceful they are in the water. God Speed, Kreacher!

people waiting for Kreacher's release
Waiting for Kreacher

CMA rescue boat




turtle close up

into the waves
Off she goes!

I still had the rest of the day to myself, so after the release was over and I’d cooled off with a drink and lunch at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill, I decided to pay a visit to some of the other rescues at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. While the CMA’s mission is “rescue, rehab, release”, sometimes an animal is too badly injured or too young to be able to survive on its own, and these animals become permanent residents of the aquarium. The most famous residents, of course, are Winter and Hope, the dolphin stars of the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. But the CMA is also home to dolphin Nicholas, nine sea turtles and even a couple of river otters. I spent a lazy afternoon watching the turtles swim in their newly renovated habitat (just completed on June 10th) and seeing Hope and Winter playing with their trainers. Thank you to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for their care and commitment to our Florida sea creatures!

Frenchy's Rockaway Grill

Clearwater Marine Aquarium
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Cupid the turtle
Cupid, an injured green sea turtle, in her new habitat

Hope the dolphin

Hope and her trainer

dolphin sculpture

Where did Kreacher go after her release? You can track her by satellite here:


  1. Good story! Really cool to be able to track Kreacher and see where and how far she's traveled.

  2. What a lovely creature! The tracking site is pretty cool - she's moving around!