WATCH: Rehabilitated sea turtle released back into the Gulf

A sea turtle who was rehabilitated at Gulf World Marine Institute was released back into the Gulf today.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 12:31 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Gulf World Marine Institute gave us something to be thankful for Wednesday. More than 100 people gathered in Panama City Beach to see a big loggerhead sea turtle, now rehabilitated and ready to be released. He went crawling to the shoreline, as fast as a turtle can.

Cork was on the move Wednesday morning, headed back into the Gulf of Mexico.

“He was named Cork because he had very bad buoyancy control problems. So basically, he had air in his body where it shouldn’t be. Because of it, he literally couldn’t dive at all so his entire top shell was above the water surface,” Lauren Albrittain, Stranding Coordinator at Gulf World Marine Institute (GWMI), said.

Cork washed up near the City Pier on June 6th, where Panama City Beach Fire Rescue transferred him over to the GWMI.

“They’ll call us if there’s a turtle that’s having trouble, if it’s entangled, or if it’s, you know, not behaving properly, something like that, and we’ll send guards out to go check on it,” Will Spivey, Beach Safety Director for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, said.

Cork is missing a flipper but that was already healed when they found him. Experts spent the last five months focused on helping him get back underwater.

“Eventually we were able to both pull that air out medically, and he worked out the rest of it on his own as his injuries healed,” Albrittain said.

Loggerheads take a leading spot on our beautiful beaches. According to Panama City Beach Turtle Watch, there were 42 nests just this year, which is 16 more than last year. More than 3,100 hatchlings made their way to the water.

Maybe, just maybe, those baby turtles will bump into Cork down there. That’s what Albrittain hopes, at least.

“We can’t help but develop those connections or we get rather fond of them. And in Cork’s case, he was pretty challenging at the beginning. So I think we were all a little sad to see him go but mostly excited because this is obviously what we’re here for,” Albrittain said.

If you see a stranded or deceased dolphin, whale, or sea turtle, report it to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, at 1-888-404-3922 or #FWC on your cell phone.

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