DSCN0492Big doings at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island this week. They are celebrating their second anniversary with Nest Fest, culminating with the release of three of their patients back into the ocean on Saturday.

If you haven’t visited the center, put it on your “must” list for your next visit to the Golden Isles. The hospital in particular is worthy of your time. It is arranged so that you can see most of the patients and learn what brought them to the center and what methods — from treating with honeycomb to performing surgery —  the staff is taking to get the turtles back to sea.

The photo with this story shows Pumpkin, a loggerhead turtle who was rescued by a boater in Pumpkin Hill Creek, Fla. in October, 2008. When Pumpkin came to the center she was covered in leeches, unable to open her mouth much or to dive properly. She has had a variety of treatments, included Procrit, which some may be familiar with as a cancer drug. Pumpkin is doing much better and she will be released Saturday.

To get her ready, the staff attached a satellite transmitter to her back with apoxy on Wednesday. This will give her a couple of days to get used to the transmitter, which the staff hopes will stay on her back for at least a year so they can track her progress. We were able to watch the procedure through an observation window into a treatment room.

Any turtle release is a big victory. All sea turtles are endangered. In addition to treating the sick, the center sponsors a Turtle Patrol to walk the beach each evening from late May through August to mark nests once they’ve been laid and document the arrival of turtles and the departure of their hatchlings. So far, there have been more than a dozen nests laid on Jekyll — and it’s still early in the season.

The most common types of turtles nesting on Jekyll are loggerhead and green, but this year, a large leatherback turtle has come ashore twice to nest. Staff members say this is very rare; leatherbacks usually don’t nest this far north. They are guarding her nests with extra care.

For more information about the center, the Nest Fest activities this week and the release Saturday, go to georgiaseaturtlecenter.org

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Reagan Walker

Reagan Walker

Reagan Walker is a former Sunday Editor of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. A veteran writer and editor, she was an award-winning food writer and has covered other beats ranging from education to the war on terrorism to immigration.