As sea turtle nesting season begins on Southwest Florida beaches, Luna, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s ambassador loggerhead sea turtle is able to be released into the wild. Luna was released Thursday, April 26 into the Gulf of Mexico near Ten Thousand Islands in southern Collier County.

Since her arrival in April 2016, Luna has an ambassador for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, offering visitors to the Dalton Discovery Center a unique opportunity to learn about sea turtle research and protection.

Luna came from a turtle nest on Sanibel Island, and was hatched at Gumbo Limbo Park in Boca Raton as part of a gender research study by Gumbo Limbo and Florida Atlantic University. Luna, who now weighs 36 pounds, is large enough to be released into the wild. A new juvenile sea turtle will replace Luna in the coming weeks.

“We are very fortunate to have one of the few permits to house a loggerhead,” said Dr. Jeff Schmid, Conservancy Science Research Manager.  “The Nature Center is the only place in the community visitors can learn about this threatened species and get an up-close view of their behavior.  We encourage everyone to visit us and take advantage of this unique opportunity.”

Loggerheads are primarily carnivorous- eating fish, crustaceans, jellyfish, and occasionally sea grass and algae.

“Sea turtles forage in sea grass beds, rocky patches and reef areas,” said Katie Ferron, Conservancy education programs coordinator.  “You can see an example of Southwest Florida reefs areas at the Conservancy’s 6,000-gallon Patch Reef Aquarium inside the Dalton Discovery Center.”

In Florida, loggerheads are a threatened species. As hatchlings, sea turtles face several natural predators, but as adults their only predators are sharks and humans. Human threats include habitat loss, poaching, pollution, litter (such as plastic bags), commercial fishing, and boat collisions.

What you can do

Hatchlings follow the lightest part of the horizon (reflected light over the water) which is how they find their way from the nest to the water.

  • Turn of lights at beaches during nesting season
  • Don’t touch the animals
  • Clean up our beaches (turtles will eat and can choke on litter)
    • Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags,
    • support fisheries that use turtle safe devices on their nets,
    • slow-down in designated channel zones

Learn more about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida work with sea turtles www.conservancy.org/seaturtles.

The Conservancy, which has a goal of protecting the area’s water, land, wildlife and future, incorporates ambassador animals into its education program to inform Nature Center visitors about native and non-native species that call Southwest Florida home. Other ambassadors include Horatio, a red-tailed hawk; Olive, a barred owl: Aquila, a bald eagle; several alligators; and multiple species of snakes, turtles, fish and more.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50-year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.