Turtles freed for Independence Day | VailDaily.com

Turtles freed for Independence Day

Karin Stanton
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Karin Stanton/APMasayo Nagahara, second from right, steadies a Hawaiian green sea turtle in a sling as young volunteers carry it to the ocean Wednesday.

KOHALA COAST, Hawaii – Seven juvenile green sea turtles got their first taste of freedom Wednesday.

The turtles, which are protected under the endangered species act and are considered threatened, were launched into the ocean from the beach at Mauna Lani Resort along the Kohala Coast.

It was the 18th year for Turtle Independence Day Celebration, a partnership between the resort and Sea Life Park.

Hundreds of resort guests and community residents packed the shoreline to watch as the turtles, or honu in Hawaiian, flipped their way into the waters to begin new lives of freedom.

The two-year-old animals _ named Kulewa, Meheu, Muolani, Naauao, Palaole, Pookela and Pokii _ were carried in slings by young volunteers down to the water’s edge where guests scooped them up and released them into the shallows.

The babies were born at Sea Life Park on Oahu and raised at the Mauna Lani Resort’s saltwater ponds. They were set free after a final health checkup and once they an identification microchip was implanted in them.

Since 1989, the Turtle Independence Day program has released more than 100 juveniles into the wild.

A generation ago, green sea turtles were hunted for sport and for food. That changed in 1978, when honu were added to the federal endangered species list and it became a crime to kill or harass them.

“In the last 25 years the numbers have rebounded,” said George Balazs, a marine turtle researcher with the National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

“This a great example of the endangered species act really working,” Balazs said after helping launch one of the turtles.

The Mauna Lani Resort educates hundreds of school children each year through its cultural and marine programs.

Sea Life Park by Dolphin Discovery is in East Oahu and offers a variety of shows, exhibits and educational programs.

Headline: Seven turtles swim free for Independence Day

Category: N

Creation Date: 7/4/2007 18:59:23 Submit Date: 7/4/2007 19:00:44

By Line: By KARIN STANTON Title: For The Associated Press


ID: q7733

Source: The Associated Press Credit: (AP)

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