Archive for the 'Turtles' Category



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! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

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! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

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!

jenn dittmar national aquarium animal rescue

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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Terrapin Hatchlings Are Ready for School!

It’s that time of the year again! Students from across the country are packing-up their backpacks and getting ready to go back to school. At the Aquarium, forty-five hatchling turtles are also getting ready for their first day at school.

terrapin hatchling

Through the Terrapins in the Classroom Program, hatchling diamondback terrapins are collected from Poplar Island in late summer and then placed in partner schools around the state. Students and teachers are charged with caring for the little turtle all school year. They collect growth data, observe behaviors, learn animal care techniques and research the natural history of the species. In late spring, the students release the terrapins back onto Poplar Island.

The hatchlings are quarter-sized right now, but throughout the year they will more than quadruple in size. Scientists are studying the impact of this ‘headstart’ on adult terrapin populations around Poplar Island.

The Terrapins in the Classroom Program provides a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to form a meaningful connection with an animal that lives in the Chesapeake Bay. As students wave goodbye to the terrapins, they begin to understand how they are connected to all aquatic animals and how their actions can impact the Chesapeake Bay.

This school year hundreds of students will do their part by helping to care for a terrapin in their classroom. You can do your part by planting a wetland, helping clean-up waterways, and practicing terrapin-safe crabbing!


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