Shelly the turtle was released at Gab Gab Beach on board U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) by the Guam Department of Agriculture, Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR), the NBG Environmental Division, and Underwater World, Oct. 17.
On Dec. 23, 2019, Shelly was found in distress and was floating in the waters off of Gab Gab Beach when she was discovered by beachgoers. The beachgoers took swift action by contacting the installation fire department who helped carefully move Shelly back to shore where she was picked up by the DAWR team. Shelly weighs more than 50 pounds and she is estimated to be somewhere between 15 to 20 years old.
“It’s important for the turtles to be returned to the same general area where they were found, at this age they use visual cues so they tend to feed and live in areas that are familiar to them,” said DAWR Biologist CJ Cayanan. “For us, it’s always nice to be able to work with our partners to rehabilitate the turtle and release them back into their natural habitat.”
For the past 10 months, Underwater World’s Senior Aquarist Rafael Calderon and his team rehabilitated Shelly by feeding her and monitoring her in preparation for her release.
“She had a blockage in her intestinal system and we gave her some mineral oil and she was eventually able to pass the blockage and then we fed her until she was able to feed on her own,” Calderon said. “Releasing Shelly reassures me that what I’m doing is the right thing, by rehabilitating the turtles and sending them back so they can repopulate. It is kind of sad, I saw her every day for 10 months and now she’ll be gone and back in the wild.”
The NBG Environmental Division has a program to monitor sea turtles, including the placement of tracking devices and tags, according to Ann Colt a natural resources specialist with the division. The program allows environmental staff to track movements, watch migratory habits, and are a means of conservation for the species. Prior to Shelly’s release, she was tagged into the tracking and monitoring program.
“We will now be able to track her movements and learn about where she goes to feed and reproduce,” said Colt. “This type of information is invaluable to help us develop conservation and protection measures while she is a guest of Guam.”
If you find a distressed turtle, please contact the NBG Environmental Division at 339-7348, 339-1104, 487-2040, or 489-5409. You are advised not to touch, feed or bother the turtle. If you see a distressed turtle floating in the water or on the beach, stay in the area until the proper authorities arrive.
(U.S. Naval Base Guam News Release)