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Sea Turtle Release Off Topsail Island

Six sea turtles were returned to the ocean off Topsail Island, North Carolina, this morning after having been healed of illness or injury by the staff and volunteers of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. One by one, in slings or in the arms of caregivers, Camper, Coldie, October, River, Simon and Theodore were carried to the water as hundreds of onlookers erupted in applause and cheers.

The idea for the center originated with Karen Beasley, who died from leukemia in 1991 at age 29. As her health was declining, she specified to her mother, Jean, that her insurance funds be used “to do something good for sea turtles.” Together, they began to organize their sea turtle protection efforts into the Topsail Turtle Project, writing a mission statement, structuring the beach monitoring program, and recruiting volunteers. The dream became reality in 1997 when the first sick and injured turtles were rescued and rehabilitated. The center was housed in a 900 square-foot building until June of 2014, when home became a new 13,600 square-foot, $1.5 million facility. The center has rehabilitated and released more than 300 turtles since 1997.

According to its mission statement, the sea turtle hospital is dedicated to:

  • The conservation and protection of all species of marine turtles, both in the water and on the beach;

  • The rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured sea turtles;

  • Informing and educating the public regarding the plight of all sea turtles and the threat of their extinction; and

  • Providing an experiential learning site for students of biology, wildlife conservation and/or veterinary medicine from around the world.

The center, which is located at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City, and will open for daily tours on June 8, from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit:

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Photos by D.F.G. Hailson.

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