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Beach & Lifestyle Manager Jordan Tucker was working away in his office at Cinnamon Shore when word came that the giant Loggerhead sea turtle had lumbered onto the beach. He sprang into action, contacting the experts at the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), a local marine science organization that knows what to do and how to care for injured marine life, including stranded sea turtles.
"It was an interesting morning to say the least," Jordan says. "My guys down at the beach called me telling me we needed animal rescue for a beach turtle that had washed up and couldn’t get itself back into the water. Other than looking tired, it didn’t have any noticeable ailments or injuries. Once I got a hold of someone at ARK, [Front Desk Manager] Amanda Campbell and I went down to the beach to assess the situation."
Jordan Tucker, right, of Cinnamon Shore did the right thing in calling the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) for help with a stranded sea turtle. He and Mauricio Magdadaro, middle, help a representative from ARK load the creature for transport.
The Cinnamon Shore beach clean-up crew was guarding the animal, and though guests took pictures with the turtle, they were not allowed to touch her. "We made sure everyone was being respectful and keeping their distance," Jordan says. "A woman from ARK arrived on the scene shortly after we got down to the beach, and we assisted her in getting the turtle into her pick-up truck bed. We simply followed her instructions for carrying the turtle." The turtle was so large that she couldn't fit inside any containers ARK had brought, so the rescuers set the turtle on a beach towel in the back of the pick-up truck to transport her to the ARK facilities.
ARK allows the finders and preservers of sea turtles to name them! So, Jordan did the honors. "I named it Gabriela after one of my beach attendants who was there that day," Jordan says. "She was a beautiful turtle."
In the initial assessment, it appeared that the worn-out sea turtle simply needed some rest and rehabilitation. But less than a week later the ARK reported that Gabriela had suffered some sort of ailment, and she did not survive. "We exhausted all treatments in order to save her but we were unsuccessful," said Alicia Walker, program coordinator at ARK, in an email. She says that there has been a trend toward debilitated loggerhead lately. "We are investigating why these strandings are occurring but don’t have any info as of right now," Alicia said.
Despite the outcome, the team at Cinnamon Shore did the right thing in contacting the ARK's turtle hotline. According to the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Foundation, when sea turtles appear on the sand and out of the water, it's a good bet that they are nesting, injured, sick, or dead. So, do take caution and call the local turtle rescue hotline at 1-866-TURTLE5. Never handle the sea turtle or attempt to push it back into the water without explicit direction from a professional.
A nesting ground for Kemp's Ridley sea turtles between the months of April and July, Port Aransas is witness to the comings and goings of these amazing creatures. Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nests are treated as almost sacred, with crowds gathering to watch in awe as hatchlings make their slow scramble from turtle nests to Gulf waters every year. Females imprint with the shoreline where they're born and return to Mustang Island shores to lay their eggs. Green and Loggerhead sea turtles are two other species you may spot in Mustang Island waters.
Affiliated with the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, ARK is a great resource on the island. According to its website, ARK rehabilitates marine turtles and marine birds from the coastal zone of Mustang Island and St. Joseph Island. The ARK is not open to the public, but guided tours are available on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. by reservation.
In the behind-the-scenes tour of the marine rehabilitation facilities, you'll see endangered sea turtles, sea birds, and raptor ambassadors. With parking at 855 East Cotter Ave. in Port Aransas, it's an easy trip over from Cinnamon Shore to the UTMSI Wetlands Education Center, where ARK has its facilities. Tours are for up to 15 people and cost $7 per participant, with children 3 admitted for free. Learn more about ARK at utmsi.utexas.edu/about/facilities/ark.
Keep these hotline numbers in mind on your next trip to Mustang Island:If you see a stranded or nesting sea turtle call the Turtle Hotline: 1-866-TURTLE5.If you see an injured shore bird, call the ARK Hotline (361)749-6793.
REMINDER: Please do not touch or handle the sea turtle or attempt to push it back into the water. Call the hotline and wait for a professional to arrive and give any instructions.
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