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Sea turtles return to Jekyll center

Sea turtles return to Jekyll center

The 29 sea turtles and 50 hatchlings evacuated from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for Hurricane Irma are ready to make a splash today as the center’s patient pavilion reopens to the public.

Workers at the turtle center in the Jekyll Island Historic District worked late into the afternoon Wednes

day to unload the animals from three vans that brought them back from the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tenn., where they were housed since evacuating Sept. 9.

“It was a great group effort,” said Dr. Terry Norton, a veterinarian and director of the center. “The aq

uarium was very helpful, and all the animals made it back.”

The evacuation was no easy task, Norton said, and required coordination and team work.

“Driving was by far the most challenging aspect,” he said. “We transported them with mist in padded tubs, and we used A&D ointment to lubricate their skin.”

Once they arrived at the Tennessee Aquarium, the turtles — which are recovering from illness or injury — were kept in quarantine tanks, he added.

Norton praised the efforts of all the staff involved in the evacuation, in particular Michelle Kaylor, a rehabilitation specialist at the center and the organizer of the turtle odyssey to Tennessee.

“I worked there (the Tennessee Aquarium) before working here, so I called them and told them about the threat of the hurricane coming … and they luckily had tank space for us,” Kaylor said. “They made it work for us. We were able to send our staff and our veterinarian/director to care for the animals while they were up there, and they helped us as much as possible.”

About half of the sea turtle center staff stayed with the animals throughout the evacuation, while the other half returned to Jekyll Island to ready the turtles’ tanks with new salt water and other needs, Kaylor said.

Moving all those sick turtles was a challenge, but went as well as could be expected, she said.

“If you can imagine packing for your family vacation — but you’re not packing for your children or husband, you’re packing for 29 animals that have treatments and need food — everything they’ll need, you have to think about before you leave,” she said. “But my staff here did an excellent j

ob.”

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, 214 Stable Road, Jekyll Island, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $8 for adults. For more information, visit www.georgiaseaturtle center.org.