Rescued turtle released in Gulf
By Harvey Rice
Published 08:53 p.m., Wednesday, May 30, 2012
ABOARD THE FLYING FISH TOO - Milagro didn't look back after he
was dropped from this Texas A&M boat Wednesday 24 miles out in the
Gulf of Mexico. The little Kemp's ridley sea turtle darted away, his
three flippers propelling him at top speed.
Milagro became a minor
celebrity after surviving life-threatening injuries and being placed in
a tank at Texas A&M Galveston's Sea Life Facility while he waited
for the proper time for his release. Thousands of viewers watched on a
webcam as Milagro swam and dined on crab and shrimp in a tank equipped
with a turtle house made of plastic pipes.
Visitors traveled from
Dallas, Austin and San Antonio to the Texas A&M campus to see the
turtle, discovered last July 24 by two fishermen at Surfside.Milagro's
carapace was cracked, his lungs were damaged, his right front flipper
was gone, the edge of his shell was missing a chunk, and he
He was nursed back to health at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Turtle Facility in Galveston before being transferred to Texas A&M.
"Everyone on campus got so attached and so invested in this little turtle," said Dr. Kimberly Reich, Marine Research Facility manager.
Milagro got his name in April in a contest run by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. A science class at Sam Houston Middle School
in Garland was going to suggest the name Miracle. The 90 percent
Hispanic class opted instead for Milagro, the same name in Spanish,
after learning that the endangered Kemp's ridleys' primary nesting
ground is in Mexico, Reich said.
Milagro bided his time while
researchers waited for the water to warm to the right temperature and
for the end of the shrimp season so he wouldn't get caught in a net,
When the time came, Reich and Heather Medina,
a 23-year-old intern with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project on loan to
Reich, took Milagro and three other turtles on board the Flying Fish
Too, a 59-foot cargo vessel.
Each turtle was placed on a towel in a
plastic bin with air holes. Like Milagro, the other Kemp's ridleys had
been rehabilitated after suffering grievous injuries. Two, like Milagro,
were missing flippers. The third, and smallest, was found tangled in
a biologist at Galveston's Moody Gardens, said the turtle found in the
sargassum had been held at Moody Gardens since February. The crew there
nicknamed him Lamar.
Reich said the turtles were being taken far
into the Gulf because at their age they normally lived in clumps of
seaweed floating at sea. She said they are not accustomed to feeding
near shore and might not be able to find their way to sea if released on
The 24-mile point was chosen because it was the
closest reasonable point of release that was not in the shipping lanes,
After a two-hour voyage through choppy seas, the Flying
Fish Too stopped dead in the water. Hoffman leaned over the stern and
dropped Lamar into the sea, and Medina and Reich each released one of
the other turtles.
And finally, Reich set Milagro free.
"Four more critically endangered turtles released into the wild," Reich
said. "I'll miss seeing him, but I'm not in the least bit sad."