CONSERVATION: Jekyll Island's 4th of July Loggerhead Release Ignites Passion for Sea Turtles

Traditional events like parades, concerts, and fireworks have always been the mainstays when it comes to celebrating Independence Day along the Georgia coast.  But this year, something extraordinary happened. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center proved that a little firecracker named, Hugue, was the real star of the show.

It all began at The Great Dunes Park Pavilion with an educational event hosted by “Scute,” the Georgia Sea Turtle Center mascot.  Scute kicked off the freedom-fest on the main lawn and posed for pictures with fans, while scientists and volunteers shared Hugue’s story with the growing crowd.  ”Hugue” is the name of the rehabilitated sea turtle whose freedom was only moments away…

Hugue’s story (pronounced “Hue”) began on December 29, 2011 when she was found stranded on the beach in Huguenot Park in Jacksonville, Florida.  The sub-adult loggerhead was severely debilitated with a heavy load of barnacles and marine leeches and was cold stunned upon arrival.  The amazing team at The Georgia Sea Turtle Center was able to bring Hugue’s temperature back up to normal (75-80 degrees Fahrenheit) and treated her with iron supplementation, fluids, antibiotics, and nutritional support.  In addition, Hugue had several wounds that required wound care and she was also anemic.  With a two year rehabilitation story like that, this tough girl deserved to go out with a bang!   

As a huge crowd gathered on the beach, rumors began to swirl that the GSTC’s van had arrived.  Within seconds, the transport team crested the boardwalk, carrying the tell-tale white plastic tub with Hugue inside.  The release team kicked the festivities up a notch by wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle masks, which for the record, was “turtelly” awesome!  Everyone was given one last close-up view as the GSTC team carefully walked Hugue around the perimeter of the crowd, before setting her down on the beach.

(click photo for larger image)

(click photo for larger image)

(click photo for larger image)

Research Coordinator, Kimberly Andrews and GSTC Director, Dr. Terry Norton, had to move Hugue out to deeper water after a false-start.

Once she was held over the water, Hugue made her move towards the approaching waves.  With one last exuberant splash, the tracking transmitter on the back of her shell sank slowly into the sea.  If you are interested in following Hugue’s journey, please visit her tracking MAP on the website.  It is unknown how long her transmitter will last, but she was last logged near St. Augustine, 4km off the coast.


For more about The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, visit:

Get involved and Adopt-A-Turtle!  Tell them GoldenIslesInsider sent you!

Ramey Shirah, a Southern Coterie contributor, has an exquisite eye for photography and a big heart for conservation and nature.  She lives on St. Simons Island and shares pictures and insights on her blog,  You can also visit Golden Isles Insider on fb @ or on twitter @

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Tags: Sports&Outdoors, c-teamblog, conservation, travel


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Comment by whitney long on July 10, 2013 at 11:45am

Great post and photography, Ramey!  I feel like I was there!

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