The sea turtles, named Solstice, Lightning and Tucker, were rescued from cold waters near the Oregon coast in 2014 and 2015 and flown to SeaWorld for rehabilitation over the past few years by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Solstice and Lightning, both female turtles, arrived to SeaWorld in February 2015 and March 2016, and male turtle Tucker was transferred in April 2016.
When the sea turtles were found they were cold-stunned and suffering from buoyancy issues, which left the animals unable to dive and forage for food.
“Sea turtles like tropical warm water and the temperature regulates their bodies ability to work. When the water gets cold the animals system start shutting down and they end up on the beach,” said Mike Price, who is assistant curator at Zoological Operations at SeaWorld.
At SeaWorld the sea turtles have undergone a groundbreaking rehabilitation protocol that involved placing the turtles in a 12-foot-deep, 115,000-gallon saltwater rehabilitation pool. Here the sea turtles slowly but surely began to dive, forage and maintain proper buoyancy.
After the lengthy rehab, SeaWorld’s aquarium experts and veterinarians said that the turtles were in healthy condition, of good weight, navigating through a water column, eating a variety of food types, and were ready to make in on their own in their ocean home.
The sea turtles were loaded onto SeaWorld’s rescue boat Second Chance on Monday morning and returned to the ocean approximately 15 miles off the coast of San Diego.
Prior to their return, the sea turtles were outfitted with satellite transmitters by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute to monitor their movements. In that way, they are able to follow them for up to six months.
“What is so exciting about today is that after close to two years of hard work we get to return the sea turtles and give them a second chance in life,” said Price.
Olive ridley turtles are the smallest turtle in the Pacific Ocean and they are listed on the federal endangered species list as threatened. They get their name from the olive green color of their shells.