Endangered sea turtles now swim the same water where, three months ago, humans rescued them from the toxic soup created by the BP spill spewing oil deep below.

A group of 33 young Green, Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill and Loggerhead sea turtles returned to paddle the briny waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Oct. 21. They are the first group to be released into an area near where they were rescued, about 40 miles southwest of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

All 33 turtles represent rare members of the Gulf’s ecosystem. Green, Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles are endangered species. Loggerheads are listed as threatened.

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In fact, according to Gordon Burghardt, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, many animals — not just dogs, cats, and monkeys — need a little play time.

“I studied the behavior of baby and juvenile reptiles for many years and never saw anything that I thought was play. Then I had an epiphany when I saw Pigface, a Nile softshell turtle, batting around a basketball at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. I realized reptiles play, too,” said Burghardt.

Burghardt’s findings are discussed in the October issue of The Scientist. To read the article and view Burghardt’s videos of various animals playing, visit http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/10/1/44/1/.

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