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Sep 8, 2010 9:39 PM by Alison Haynes

Turtle egg rescue at space center billed success

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - The unprecedented turtle rescue
effort at NASA's Kennedy Space Center is winding down.
A total of 278 sea turtle nests were trucked to the space center
from the Gulf Coast from the end of June until mid-August. Wildlife
officials organized the relocation because of fears the oil spill
might endanger the hatchlings.
They expected to move about 700 nests, but the shipments ended
after the Gulf of Mexico was deemed safe for the sea turtle
hatchlings.
Biologist Jane Provancha said Wednesday that she expects to
release the final batch of hatchlings into the Atlantic near Cape
Canaveral this week.
At least 15,000 hatchlings have been released from the more than
28,000 eggs that were transported to Kennedy, Provancha said.
That's a 50-percent-plus success rate, slightly better than in the
wild, where raccoons and other animals prey on the eggs and
hatchlings scampering toward the ocean. Humans also are a threat;
bright lights along the beach can confuse the hatchlings and draw
them away from the ocean.
"That's a good rate," Provancha said. "We're not finished
yet."
The BP oil rig explosion in April and resulting spill prompted
the wide-scale conservation effort. About 206 million gallons of
oil spewed into the gulf before the gushing stopped, raising the
specter of sea turtle hatchlings struggling across oily beaches and
swimming into nearshore oil slicks.
To improve the baby turtles' odds of survival, their nests were
excavated from Florida's northwestern coast and Alabama, and placed
in special foam coolers, along with moist sand that originally
surrounded the nests. FedEx trucks delivered the fragile eggs to a
climate-controlled, off-limits building at the space center; the
company volunteered its services and drove more than 25,000 miles
to complete the job.
Most of the transported nests belonged to loggerhead sea
turtles, a threatened species. There also were a few nests from
endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles and green sea turtles.
The space center was ideal for the massive undertaking because
of its restricted access and associated wildlife refuge. The
Canaveral National Seashore adjoins Kennedy.
Wildlife experts hope the surviving turtles eventually will
return to their native habitat in the Gulf.

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