Chantal Audran, executive director of the center, said normally the sea turtles crawl into the water, but Ike injured a flipper earlier this year and his vet at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center advised against letting him crawl against the sand. That didn’t stop Ike’s flippers from moving through the air as if it were waves.
Fans of Ike show up to support his next journey
Aysa Loring and Loghan Wampler drove from Savannah to see the event this morning after seeing it on Facebook.
"It was really cool to see," Wampler said. "It's a beautiful morning just in general on the beach and getting to see that on top of everything else was really cool because I personally haven't really seen anything like that before."
After his release, various activities like half-price Turtle Talks, feedings of Westie, the center's other resident turtle, turtle costume photo shoots, sea turtle trivia, and more were offered at the science center.
The event was live-streamed and can be found on their Facebook.
Ike was born in 2020 and was one of the stragglers in a nest of loggerhead sea turtles. The science center was quiet, no thousands of students coming in and out of the building like usual, and only a few people on staff at the time.
“He ended up being kind of a shy guy,” Audran said. “He’s got humble beginnings. He’s the first resident sea turtle that ever lived in this fancy new science center. He’s special because of that.”
Audran said it's a special moment when a turtle gets released, the culmination of a lot of hard work of individuals on staff.
“It’s a happy moment when we finally see what they do and what they need to do, right,” Audran said. “Captivity is the bonkers thing; it’s not natural. What we have to do while they’re here for three years is keep them alive, happy, stimulated, fed, nourished. That’s a lot of stress, and this is just our baby but they don’t need us. Their brains are different.”
Audran said at the time of the last turtle release, they said they weren't going to cry then. Everything changed when they saw how many people had come to see Admiral off.
"It's confirmation that when you meet an individual in a population you care about it, you have a connection with it and it makes you connected to the entire endangered population," Audran said. "It really makes you care about their conservation. It makes you change from getting a straw at the restaurant."
Destini Ambus is the general assignment reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Loggerhead Ike released into the Atlantic off Tybee Island’s North Beach
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