- By Bill DiPaolo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Amid cheers from about 700 fans, Brother Kenny and Brieanna crawled across the sand in Juno Beach and swam home into the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday morning.
“Wow, the sea turtles crawl slow. But they swim fast,” said Patrick O’Keefe, 11, from Rhode Island, who was among the crowd with his parents Bob and Diana.
Both wounded sub-adult loggerheads were found near Hutchinson Island in August and brought to Loggerhead Marinelife Center, where sea turtles are rehabilitated.
Brother Kenny’s initial blood-work showed anemia, hypoglycemia and overall poor health because of starvation. Hospital staff administered fluids, antibiotics and iron. The turtle was put into a temporary freshwater tank to remove the barnacles that covered its body.
Brieanna was treated for anemia and overall poor health also because of starvation. Hospital staff administered fluids, antibiotics and iron. Medications and fluids helped the healing process. The turtle was also put into freshwater to remove leeches that covered the turtle’s body for the first 48 hours.
In 2016, 52 wounded sea turtles were treated and released at LMC.
LMC officials also keep track of nesting numbers annually on 10 miles of north Palm Beach County beaches.
Thursday morning’s twin release, just south of the Juno Beach Pier, was more good news for sea turtles in north Palm Beach County.
The 2017 sea turtle nesting season was a record-setting eight months on north county beaches.
The high numbers come despite heavy beach erosion this year from Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria.
North county beaches were among the worst hit, according to Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management officials. About a third of the total of 450 feet of dry beach lost to the storms was from beaches on Singer Island and north.
About 11 percent (about 2,060 nests) were lost to Hurricane Irma on the 10-mile of beach monitored by LMC from the northern Palm Beach County line south to the northern border of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
While leatherbacks, loggerheads and greens are all sea turtles, their behaviors and habitats vary. All are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act because of potential damage from commercial fishing, coastal lighting, boats and other human activities.
LMC is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates and researches sea turtles. About 50 injured sea turtles, such as Amanda, are released into the Atlantic Ocean annually. About 2,000 hatchlings are released annually. The center attracts about 300,000 visitors each year, according to LMC.