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Rescued and rehabilitated turtles returned to ocean at Jersey Shore

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH, NJ — If what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger, then Titan is the strongest turtle in the ocean.

The juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was nicked by a boat propeller, had part of its front flipper bitten off by a shark and attacked by another shark when two New Jersey fishermen intervened, rescued it and called Sea Turtle Recovery, a group that rescues and rehabilitates turtles before returning them to the ocean.

On Tuesday morning, Titan was among eight turtles returned to the sea after being cared for over winter and spring.

“To see Titan return to the ocean after being hit by a boat, bitten by a shark, and battling another shark is just amazing,” said Brandi Biehl, co-CEO of the group. “There really isn’t a tougher turtle in the world than him.”

Sea Turtle Recovery still has four turtles at its northern New Jersey recovery facility that are not yet ready to be released.

Based at the aptly named Turtle Back Zoo in South Orange, New Jersey, the group began taking in and caring for sick or injured turtles in December 2016. Including Tuesday’s outings, they have now healed and returned 85 turtles to the ‘ocean.

Most turtles have experienced what is known as “cold stun”, the near shut down of their organs due to being in waters that become too cold for them instead of migrating to waters warmer in winter. November and December are particularly busy months for the group.

Others have been injured by boats or sharks, or have developed other illnesses. Six of the eight are Kemp’s Ridley turtles, an endangered species. Titan and another turtle, Petunia, are loggerheads.

One of the rescued turtles, Princess, was found stranded on Sandy Hook beach just after Thanksgiving, barely alive. A sea turtle’s body temperature should be above 65 degrees; she was 37 when she was found.

Other survivors include Donashello, who washed ashore in December 2020 after large lung damage caused him to float, and he failed to migrate south before the water got too cold. He was in critical condition for months, but eventually recovered.

Willow was also stunned with cold and emaciated when she foundered on the shore. She refused to eat for over a month, but eventually started eating again and recovered.

Slater was found on the beach at Sandy Hook with a front flipper that had to be amputated after being mangled by a boat propeller. But it’s expected to do well in the ocean with just three fins, as others in its condition have been studied and performed well despite their limitations, the group said.

Stone was found in December, also barely alive. His heart nearly gave out four times during rehabilitation, requiring some sort of turtle resuscitation.

Petunia stranded with eye damage which has since healed. She is one of the few turtles equipped with a radio tracking device that will be used to monitor her movements in the ocean.

Cortez was stranded in critical condition last December and also had a torn ligament in his front fin which has since healed.

Sea Turtle Recovery still has four turtles at its northern New Jersey recovery facility that are not yet ready to be released.