Posts Tagged 'Aquarium Animal Rescue'



Animal Rescue Update: Help Us Say Goodbye to Ponyboy!

Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue and Animal Health teams have been busy performing physical exams on our sea turtle and seal patients that last few weeks. We’re proud to announce that grey seal Ponyboy is ready for release! Ponyboy was admitted for rehabilitation on Sunday, March 31 (Easter) from Ocean City, MD. He required treatment for a severe wound to his left front flipper, and a mild respiratory infection.

grey seal

Ponyboy’s flipper injury was quite severe, though the cause of the wound is unknown. The injury healed well with minor surgery and routine wound treatment. Recent x-rays of the affected area indicate that the bone has healed well with no signs of infection, and Ponyboy is using his flipper normally.

grey seal

Ponyboy was named after the same character from the 1980’s movie The Outsiders, (this year’s naming theme is Bratpack movies)! He will be released just north of the inlet at Ocean City, Maryland on Wednesday, June 12 at 11 am. We’d like to invite our local community to join us on the beach for Ponyboy’s release!

If you can’t join us to person to say goodbye to Ponyboy, wish him well on our Facebook page or on Twitter!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Responding to Marine Mammal Strandings

Animal Rescue Update

The National Aquarium Animal Rescue team responds to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings along the 4,320 miles of coastline in Maryland. We are permitted for stranding response through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). All species of marine mammals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and include all marine mammal species: dolphins, whales, seals, manatees, polar bears, sea lions, etc. Some marine mammals are fully aquatic, meaning they spend all of their time in the water – like dolphins, whales, and manatees. While other marine mammals are semi-aquatic, meaning they spend part of their time in the water, and part on land. Examples of semi-aquatic marine mammals include seals, polar bears, and sea lions.

Our team recently received a report of a live stranded pilot whale at Assateague Island National Seashore on Saturday, June 1. The animal had reportedly initially stranded earlier in the day and was pushed back into the water by a well-meaning member of the public. By the time the animal restranded the second time, it was lethargic and eventually refloated due to the rising tide. When a dolphin or whale strands, it expends a lot of energy in the process, and they often strand due to an underlying injury or illness.
The stranded pilot whale that appeared last week.

The stranded pilot whale that appeared on the shore of Assateague Island last week.

While it is often tempting to want to help stranded dolphins and whales by pushing them back into the water, this will only result in prolonging the suffering of the animal, as it is highly likely the animal will restrand in another location where first responders are not prepared. Dolphins and whales also carry parasites and diseases that could pose a hazard to humans. In light of this recent stranding, I’d like to share some advice on what you should do when/if you encounter a wild animal on the beach: 

If you encounter a semi-aquatic marine mammal resting on land, such as a seal, count yourself lucky! Sightings of these animals are rare in our area. Appreciate the animal from a safe distance (about 4-5 car lengths), take plenty of pictures or video, and remember that these are wild animals. Wild animals have natural instincts to protect themselves, and when a wild animal feels threatened it can bite. If a wild seal were to bite a human, there would be an unfortunate outcome for the seal due to risk of disease transmission to the human involved. If you suspect a semi-aquatic marine mammal is sick, injured, or in need of medical care, call the local authorities (animal control, coast guard, natural resources police, etc) or NMFS’s Stranding Hotline at 1-866-755-NOAA. Wait for a trained responder to arrive.

If you encounter a fully aquatic marine mammal on the beach, such as a dolphin or whale, document the event with photos or video from a safe distance (remember, they are wild animals), then call the local authorities or the NMFS Stranding Hotline immediately. Trained and authorized responders will be dispatched to assess the animal, collect valuable information, and determine the appropriate care. While it may be tempting to push stranded whales and dolphins back into the water, this is not recommended, as it may cause further injury or stress to the animal. You may be asked to remain on site to monitor the animal until the local responders arrive.

Marine mammal strandings have occurred throughout history, and can take place due to natural or human-related reasons. Marine mammal populations are generally difficult to study due to their extensive range in the open ocean, but strandings give us an opportunity to learn about the health of individual animals, species populations, and the overall health of the ocean – our ‘One Ocean.’

In continued celebration of World Oceans Day, what will YOU do to support the health of our One Ocean?

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Goodbye Sodapop, Hello Eyegore!

Animal Rescue Update

The 2012-2013 seal season has been a busy one for our Animal Rescue team!

Last Thursday, we successfully released Sodapop, a male harbor seal that was treated for a severe respiratory infection. An animal release is always a cause for celebration for our department – we spend countless hours caring for animals in rehabilitation, and to be rewarded by seeing an animal return to its natural environment is a joyous event. Despite the rainy weather, we had a large group join us on the beach at Assateague State Park to say farewell to Sodapop!

harbor seal on the beach

At his release, we can only assume Sodapop had the following thought: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

After Sodapop was released, our team had just one seal in rehabilitation – Ponyboy, a male grey seal being treated for a wound to the left front flipper. Ponyboy has been doing great – his wound is healing well, and the veterinarians recently discontinued his antibiotics. He has been enjoying enrichment several times a day, but his favorite enrichment is fishcicles! Fishcicles are jumbo frozen treats with lots of yummy fish, and they are a refreshing way for the seals to enjoy their food. Fishcicles encourage natural foraging behaviors, and stimulate their minds and tactile senses – they are usually a big hit! If Ponyboy continues to improve, we hope to be able to release him in the near future!

grey seal

Ponyboy was not alone at our Seal Rehabilitation Facility for long. The day after Sodapop’s release, we admitted a juvenile grey seal from the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team, named Eyegore the Maniac. Eyegore was initially admitted for rehabilitation on April 18th for a respiratory infection and severe infection of the left eye. After being stabilized at the Virginia Aquarium for about a month, he was transferred to the National Aquarium for long-term rehabilitation.

grey seal eyegore

Eyegore has a feisty demeanor, which is a good trait for a wild seal. His respiratory and eye infection have responded well to antibiotics, though he does have permanent scarring of the left cornea that affects his vision. Eyegore’s health is improving, despite his permanent visual impairment, and he actively enjoys lounging in his rehabilitation pool and interacting with enrichment..

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of these animals, including release details!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Thoughtful Thursdays: Endangered Species Spotlight on Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

Endangered Species Day, celebrated on May 17th, was established to raise awareness of the issues (both human-related and ecological) facing endangered species and their habitats. 

To help further amplify this day, we’ll be highlighting some endangered species that can be found in our home state of Maryland, at the National Aquarium and around the world! Our hope is that as this week progresses, others will feel inspired to help us protect these amazing animals! 

Animal Rescue Update

Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii sea turtles are the smallest of all the sea turtle species and are listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN. “Small” is a relative term for sea turtles, as the Kemp’s can weigh as much as 80 to 100 pounds as adults, and their shell can grow to about 2 feet long. Their carapace (top shell) is usually heart-shaped and brown to grey in color.

kemp's ridley

A rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley turtle being released by National Aquarium staff.

Kemp’s ridley’s are highly migratory and seasonal visitors to Maryland waters. They can often be found in coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast, from late May to October. While here, they feed on an assortment of crabs, shellfish and jellies, and will occasionally munch on seaweed. Cooler water temperatures in the fall signal the turtles to migrate south – reptiles are ectothermic, meaning their internal body temperature is dependent on the water temperature.

kemp's ridley

One of our current rehabilitation patients munching on a blue crab.

Along the northeast and mid-Atlantic in late fall and early winter, Kemp’s can become victims of cold-stunning. Cold-stunning is effectively hypothermia (low body temperature), which causes the turtles to stop eating and ultimately become severely sick. The 2012 cold-stun season was a record for the northeast. We currently have two Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in rehabilitation with our National Aquarium Animal Rescue team, and both were admitted as cold-stuns.

kemp's ridley

Since being listed as an Endangered Species in 1994, the US and Mexico have worked cooperatively to protect critical nesting habitats for the Kemp’s, resulting in an increase in successful nesting and hatching. Kemp’s still face many threats, though, many of which are human-related. The good news is that YOU can help protect Kemp’s ridley sea turtle populations!

Stay tuned for more features on endangered species this week! 

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Animal Rescue Update: We’re Currently Treating a Second Seal

Animal Rescue Update

Staff with the National Aquarium Animal Rescue have been busy caring for two juvenile seals in rehabilitation.

The first seal, a harbor seal admitted on February 15, has been doing very well. While recovering from pneumonia and an upper respiratory infection, the seal broke out with sealpox lesions. Sealpox is a viral infection similar to human chicken pox. Staff monitored the seal closely during this time to make sure he received the proper nutrition, hydration, and rest that was needed. We’re happy to report that the sealpox lesions have subsided, and the seal has been quite active lately – an indication he’s likely feeling better.

seal

The second seal , a grey seal pup, was admitted on April 1 (Easter) and has recently shown a lot of progress. The grey seal was admitted for a significant injury to the left front flipper that affects a digit joint.

grey seal

Grey seal pups present a unique challenge to rehabilitation staff, because they often require to be ‘taught’ to eat solid food. Grey seal mom’s nurse their young for about three weeks, then usually abandon the pup. The pup is left to learn to eat, navigate, and be social all on their own. This little grey was no exception and challenged our staff – we were patient through the learning process and supplemented his diet with fish smoothies while he learned.

seal

I’m happy to say, that this little guy has come a long way and is eating his full diet on his own – a big accomplishment for a little grey! Veterinarians are treating the flipper injury and monitoring its progress closely.

Stay tuned for more updates on these guys! 

Blog-Header-JennDittmar


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