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Kennedy Space Center sits right smack dab in the middle of Merritt Island Wildlife refuge, and many at KSC are proud that NASA’s technology can work in concert with nature. So it’s not surprising that the space agency is helping thousands of baby sea turtles — endangered by the oil spill on northern Gulf of Mexico beaches — to make their way to oil-free waters on Florida’s space coast. The first group of displaced hatchlings was released into the Atlantic Ocean off NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 11. Twenty-two Kemp’s ridley turtles were set free on a Kennedy Space Center/Canaveral National Seashore beach.
Biologists dug up about 700 turtle nests near Panama City and Apalachicola, Florida and brought them to KSC. While the nests were transported, they were buried in damp sand inside Styrofoam coolers and transported via a temperature-controlled truck to KSC. The turtles are being monitored until they hatch, and once they hatch, are quickly brought to the ocean, where they feed exclusively along the line of Sargassum seaweed at the edge of the current. Most of the nests are made by the threatened loggerhead sea turtle, but other species include Kemp’s Ridley, leatherback, and green sea turtles. Each nest has 100-120 eggs.
Only about one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings typically survives to adulthood under the best conditions but biologists said with the BP oil spill, there would be no chance these turtles would survive. . Experts say that with oil right off the Gulf Coast, the turtles’ odds of survival there drop to virtually zero. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has released hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and is considered the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission worked together to rescue the turtles. They can’t guarantee this will be successful, but scientist believe all of this year’s hatchlings from the northern Gulf of Mexico would be lost if nothing is done.
Additionally, six brown pelicans, four laughing gulls and one common tern also were released at Kennedy on June 6.