Rescued sea turtle released in Orange Beach after 4-month rehabilitation effort
By Marc Anderson
Amid cheers late Monday morning on the shores of Orange Beach, an endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, named “Guill,” swam off into the Gulf of Mexico. Just four months earlier, the rare sea turtle was found barely clinging to life on Ono Island with fishing tackle wrapped around its neck.
It was in July that a concerned individual called the Alabama Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network’s stranding hotline at 1-866-SEA-TURT (1-866-732-8878) about the injured turtle. The call was relayed to Lisa Graham and Wade Stevens with the Orange Beach Coastal Resources Division.
“It was at night,” Graham said after Guill’s release. “We got over there to get him/her and it was so sad.
“There was marine debris and a trap and it was just all tangled up. I never dreamed it would live, so it’s very exciting.”
Guill was successfully rehabilitated at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. One day, Graham said she hopes to have a similar turtle rescue facility in Orange Beach.
Jackie Sablan, wildlife biologist for the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and coordinator of the Alabama turtle stranding network, spoke to the crowd of over 50 adults and children who gathered Monday, Nov. 20, to celebrate the release of Guill.
“It’s definitely work where it required everybody to get together and help get the turtle … out of the water and then get it over to the Gulfarium that’s two hours away,” Sablan said. “And then the Gulfarium staff worked tirelessly to get this turtle back up to health. It had a very severe injury around the neck. The fishing line actually wrapped around the neck. And I didn’t think the turtle was actually going to make it through the night but it’s one of the examples that this turtle did come through. It’s also an example of how important it is to take your fishing gear with you when you leave the beach or if you have crab pots that you remove them when they’re not in use.”
Guill was believed to be a juvenile turtle, likely around 10 years old. “This is a Kemp’s ridley, which is one of the rarest sea turtles in the world,” Sablan said to the gathered group with young children listening intently. “You can tell it’s one of the small ones as well, and at adult size, they are at maybe 100 pounds. So this one has a little bit longer to go until it’s an adult. But they love using our nearshore environment to feed as they’re growing. A lot of times we find them in our bays around this area.”
Guill was released just east of the Perdido Pass bridge.
On the way back from the Gulfarium Monday morning, Graham said Guill was ready to go and when he touched the Gulf after a four-month absence, he wasted no time and quickly swam away, coming up for some air moments later some 20 yards off shore to another round of cheers.
Pictured: Guill, a rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, was released on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 in Orange Beach, Alabama. Guill was carried by Jackie Sablan, wildlife biologist for the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and coordinator of the Alabama Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, and Lisa Graham with the Orange Beach Coastal Resources Division and a stranding network volunteer.