Diamondback terrapins face a number of trials each day, but a partnership between the Margate Terrapin Rescue Project and the Wetlands Institute is helping to lengthen the life expectancy of these reptiles.
"We took terrapins that were hit by cars and killed. Some of them were injured. A lot of those turtles have eggs that we can salvage," said Bill Doughty, part of the Project.
"So we can actually take those eggs out of the dead turtles and incubate them, and when they've incubated for 2 months, the baby turtles hatch out," explained Dr. Roger Wood, Biology Professor Emeritus at Stockton University.
This is when the terrapin is most vulnerable.
"Everyone eats them," continued Wood. "The birds, small mammals, fish, crabs, so their chance of surviving is very poor."
Twenty of the turtles released Sunday grew from eggs harvested last Summer on the Margate Causeway. Scientists say the extra year of growth gives them an edge over their predators.
"We feed them as much as they want to eat every day all winter long and so they grow at an accelerated rate, so by late May, early June they've reached a shell length of about 3.5 inches long which means their shells are hard, they can swim pretty fast, they're too big to be swallowed by birds and their chances of survival are much greater," said Wood.
In addition to the 20 baby terrapins, an adult was reintroduced into the wild after having her shell repaired.
"Our veterinarian, when he receives a turtle that's got a cracked shell, he wires the shell back together again. Then this bandage is put on top of the crack to keep the water out while I heals," said Wood.
By the time the epoxy bandage falls off, the shell underneath is completely healed.
Doughty, who brought his wife and two sons to the marsh to release the turtles, considers it his obligation to teach his children respect for nature.
"We as parents try to lead by example and if they see that we care about the turtles they're naturally gonna care about the turtles too."
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