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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The waters off Little Talbot Island State Park got 31 new residents Tuesday.

Thirty-one endangered and threatened sea turtles rescued on Cape Cod last fall were released into the warm surf after months of rehabilitation at the New England Aquarium's rescue center near Boston.

The release coincides with the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day.

New England Aquarium staff and volunteers took on the sentimental task of placing the sea turtles on the beach and watching the turtles slowly work their way down the sand to return to their home in the ocean.

The group of turtles is made up of mostly juveniles including 28 Kemp's Ridleys, the world's most endangered sea turtle, two loggerheads and one green. They all washed up last November and December in the frigid waters of Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts.

Once rescued, the turtles are slowly re-warmed over several days and then treated for several months for malnourishment, dehydration, pneumonia and other blood and organ disorders that are a result of their prolonged immersion in cold water.

Since 1990, the New England Aquarium has treated and released more than 1,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles.

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