JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. — Friday was a momentous day on Jekyll Island... Especially if you're a sea turtle.
Two female loggerheads recovering at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center were released, and for the first time in three years, a crowd cheered them on.
"We were so, so excited," said Michelle Kaylor, director of the center. "It's so magical."
It's been a road of recovery for sea turtles Margoi and Genie, who were brought from the Jacksonville coast last spring and summer. The two spent less than a year at the center, but they were in rough shape when they came in.
"Genie was a boat strike injury and she had a impeller blade that struck her somewhere on her head," Kaylor said. "We actually had to put screws and wires in order to help get that back together. Margoi was a debilitated turtle. She had a lot of epibiota on her shell which are barnacles and leeches and algae."
By Friday the sea turtles, each around 200 pounds, were ready to return to the ocean.
"At the end you're just making sure that they can hunt for live prey," said Kaylor. "So we give them live blue crabs. We make sure they can do all that before getting released out into the ocean."
Although the sea turtle went in at separate times, Margoi and Genie both took their time getting used to the beach before making their way under the water. After about 30 minutes, plenty of nudges and getting carried closer to the water, a turtle head would dip under its surface and return home.
The Jekyll Island Turtle Crawl is coming up April 30. Learn more about it and other ways to get involved with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center here.