Archive for the 'Turtles' Category



Animal Rescue Update: Turtle Nest Excavated at Assateague

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff recently joined the National Park Service (NPS) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) to excavate a loggerhead sea turtle nest at Assateague Island National Seashore.

loggerhead nest

The nest during excavation (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

The nest, laid on July 1, 2013, has been monitored by NPS staff for the past three months. While the typical incubation period for sea turtle nests south of North Carolina is approximately 60 to 70 days, northern sea turtle nests, such as those laid in Virginia, Maryland and even Delaware, are known to incubate for a longer period of time due to typically cooler temperatures.

After 110 days, this nest had not hatched and an excavation was planned for Friday, October 18. Excavation of nests is a standard practice to determine hatchling success and stage of development. During the excavation, the team collected detailed data such as depth and dimensions, temperature, as well as number of eggs in the nest.

temp reading in loggerhead nest

The excavation team taking a temperature reading (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

It was determined during the excavation that the turtles had not yet hatched, and there was still a possibility that the nest was viable. The eggs were carefully transferred to a transport container and brought back to our Animal Care Center for incubation.

loggerhead egg transport

Our Animal Rescue staff carefully placing the loggerhead eggs in a transport carrier (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

Our team is working closely with the Aquarium’s senior herpetologists to carefully incubate and monitor the nest. We are slowly warming the nest in a temperature controlled, humid environment and should have the nest warmed to an ideal temperature within a week. Sea turtles are reptiles and are therefore sensitive to temperature changes, so the process must be done very slowly. While we have seen signs of a potentially viable nest, we are cautiously optimistic about the total number of live hatchlings that might emerge.

As you may recall, we experienced the first confirmed successful sea turtle nest in Maryland last year. Our team was ecstatic to hear that the lone surviving hatchling from that nest was released off the coast of North Carolina back in April!

This nest represents a larger joint initiative with our partners at NPS and MD DNR to plan for and respond to these events.

Stay tuned for more updates on the nest! 

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Animal Rescue Update: Rooney and Portsmouth Released!

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As you may have recently read, our Animal Rescue team was set to release our last two turtles in rehabilitation, loggerheads Rooney and Portsmouth!

Yesterday, we packed up the trusty truck with supplies and our two sea turtles, and headed to the warmer southern shore waters of Virginia Beach. Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding team was set to release two loggerhead sea turtles of their own, so we asked if they wouldn’t mind our team joining them for a few days.

At 1pm, at Sandbridge, Virginia, the four loggerheads were met with a crowd of over 300 people who came to bid them well wishes and safe travels as they head back into their natural environment!

Each turtle was accompanied by a satellite tag and an acoustic tag for tracking purposes and research opportunities. Soon, you’ll be able to follow their travels on our website as we track their adventure and navigation through the open ocean!

Join me in wishing Rooney and Portsmouth the best of luck out there! 

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Animal Rescue Update: Loggerhead Patients Ready for Release!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

It is a bittersweet, yet exciting time of year for the remaining patients at our rehabilitation center.  Our remaining two loggerheads have passed their exit exams with flying colors and will be commuting to the warmer waters of southern Virginia for their release on the 21st of October!

As you may remember, Rooney, one of the first cold-stunned turtles of the 2013 year, has actually been with us since December 23, 2012.

national aquarium loggerhead

Husbandry staff and veterinarians had started treating a chronic abscess that Rooney developed with honey, but quickly realized that the abscess needed to be removed all together.  On June 27th and September 18th, a soft tissue surgeon came in to assist our veterinarians with the abscess removal.

As you can imagine, being sedated for exams and surgeries is a very different experience from what these animals encounter in the wild, so we are very anxious to get Rooney back into his natural habitat where he can swim freely and forage for his favorite foods like blue crabs and squid.  While in rehabilitation with the National Aquarium, Rooney gained 19.3 pounds, and is currently consuming a diet of blue crabs, squid, shrimp and lean fish!

Our second loggerhead, Portsmouth, was transferred to our facility in August.

national aquarium loggerhead

On August 28th, veterinary staff was assisted by a specialist for an endoscopy procedure to remove the last of two hooks he had ingested.  The hook removal was a complete success, and staff starting including more foods into Portsmouth diet, like blue crabs. While in rehabilitation, Portsmouth gained 6.6 pounds!

Husbandry staff are working with the Virginia Aquarium now to get plans for the release into place. Stay tuned for more news and photos from their release! 

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Animal Rescue Update: Loggerhead Patient, Niagra, Has Been Released!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Niagara, a rescued Loggerhead sea turtle, was admitted for rehabilitation to the National Aquarium from the Virginia Aquarium, after accidentally being hooked by a fisherman.

loggerhead sea turtle

Niagara was lucky to suffer only minor injuries from the hook, however he also suffered from an old boat strike injury that caused a shell fracture. While in rehabilitation at National Aquarium, Animal Health staff assessed the condition of the old fracture and provided some basic wound care to allow the fractured area to heal and stabilize on its own.

After only six weeks in rehab, Niagara was successfully released today from Assateague State Park, where a small crowd gathered to bid him farewell.

Stay tuned for updates on the other two loggerheads we currently have in rehabilitation!

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Animal Rescue Update: Two Hooks Successfully Released From Loggerhead Patient!

Animal Rescue Update

Our team recently admitted two loggerheads from Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. One of the turtles, named Portsmouth, had ingested a recreational fishing hook and had to undergo surgery to remove the hook from his esophagus. We successfully removed the primary hook, but was surprised to find a second hook near the same location. The second hook was older, and more deteriorated, so they could only safely remove a portion of the hook that was visible.

loggerhead sea turtle

Animal Health staff at the National Aquarium performed a full physical exam on Portsmouth when he was transferred to our care, including radiographs (x-rays) to assess the location of the remaining hook. While radiographs are extremely helpful as a diagnostic tool, they can only provide a one-dimensional view. Our veterinary staff determined that a Computed Tomography (CT) scan would be a very helpful diagnostic for Portsmouth’s condition. A CT scan is a medical imaging procedure that essentially x-rays a body (or area of a body) around a central axis and produces a large volume of x-ray image ‘slices’ of the body – similar to slicing a loaf of bread. With the help of computer software, the image ‘slices’ can be compiled and manipulated into 3-dimensional images of structures.

Performing a CT scan on a large sea turtle like Portsmouth can be challenging, but the process is very quick (only a few seconds) and is not invasive. In fact, the most challenging part of the process was convincing Portsmouth to leave his watery world for the short trip. Portsmouth was cooperative during the approximately 30-second imaging process, and our veterinarians were able to consult with the radiologists on site about the possibilities of the hooks positioning.

On August 28, 2013, our veterinarians teamed up with Dr. Adam Gonzales, DVM from the Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine & Oncology for an endoscopy procedure in hopes of extracting the remainder of the second hook as seen on the x-rays and CT scans. While Portsmouth did have to be sedated for this procedure, the hook itself was fairly easy to remove as it was simply lying among the papillae. Papillae are keratinized projections within the throat which point inward towards the stomach. They are presumed to trap food while excess water is expelled prior to swallowing.

In just a few hours, Portsmouth was back to swimming in his pool, and had worked up quite the appetite – blue crabs, watch out!

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