Courtesy of the Cape May County Herald
In Sea Isle City, a community where preservation of the local eco-system is taken very seriously, second and third grade students from the Sea Isle City Public School (SICPS) are participating in a program that will give six hatchling diamondback terrapin turtles a new lease on life.

The students recently accepted the responsibility of caring for the turtles as part of a local effort that rescues and nurtures baby terrapins found trapped in storm drains. 

The six terrapins now residing at the SICPS are among 55 turtles that were rescued from Sea Isle City storm drains earlier this year. The other 49 turtles are currently receiving care from students at the Teitleman Middle School in Lower Township. The youngsters and their teachers will ensure that the turtles are fed properly until they are released into the wetlands next spring, which will take place at Dealy Field in Sea Isle City.

Due to the fact that storm drains on barrier islands are significant obstacles to baby terrapins attempting to travel to the wetlands after hatching or emerging from hibernation, many local environmentalists make every effort to help the young turtles complete their epic journeys. Two individuals who regularly offer assistance to baby terrapins are Susan and Steve Ahern, organizers of Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue.

The Aherns, who are often seen at community events distributing terrapin literature, realize that public concern for terrapins increases during the summer months, when females are often seen crossing busy roads and building nests. However, the terrapin-crusaders also realize that some turtles are in need of help during the winter months as well.

“We think of terrapins all year,” said Susan Ahern. “Turtles are important to the health of our delicate marshes, and helping terrapins helps the wetlands, which in turn helps the environment – one thing affects another.”

On November 18, when the Aherns brought the six small turtles to the SICPS and introduced the students to their new charges, they were joined by Joe Grottola, a Recreation and Activity Coordinator for School-Based Youth Services Program, which is a branch of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships.

Accompanying him were several students from Lower Cape May Regional High School, who assisted Grottola as he gave the SICPS students pointers on how to properly care for and handle terrapins. Grottola also explained that humans can help the terrapins in various ways. The Aherns agreed.

“We are always looking for volunteers to help us erect turtle fencing, make cages to cover nests and rescue hatchings from storm drains,” said Steve Ahern, who recently completed the New York City Marathon, where he raised $1500 for the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. “Anyone interested in learning more about Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue can phone (609) 263-7358.”

For additional information about diamondback terrapins, phone the Wetlands Institute, (609) 368-1211, or visit their website, .