Posts Tagged 'cold stunned turtles'



A closer look into turtle-mania

Our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team is still hard at work caring for 11 rescued Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. These staff and volunteers spend a great deal of time with the animals during their stay at the Aquarium. A simple pleasure enjoyed by our MARP team is the opportunity to give each animal a proper nickname so they can be remembered long after they are released back to their natural habitat.

These turtles were admitted to the rehabilitation program in December, when the Aquarium was buzzing with holiday spirit! Check out the video below for a closer look at our patients: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Frosty and Buddy (the elf)!

If you want to help us care for these turtles, you can make a donation online, or donate $5 right from your mobile phone by texting ACT to 20222.

A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the National Aquarium by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Messaging & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.

Rescued turtles undergo first medical exams

From Jenn Dittmar, MARP Stranding Coordinator

The five Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that were transferred from the New England Aquarium on December 2 are continuing to settle into our sea turtle rehabilitation program. Transporting the turtles safely is just the first step in our process, and the true rehabilitation work is just now beginning.

Shortly after animals are admitted to MARP, they are given a thorough medical examination that we call admittance exams. All five turtles underwent their exams with our animal health staff the day after their arrival.

Our animal health team works tirelessly to make sure all of our collection and rehabilitation animals stay healthy. That is no easy task, considering they oversee the health of more than 16,000 animals living at the National Aquarium!

A variety of things take place during an animal’s admittance exam. Below you’ll see Cara, one of our veterinary technicians, taking a blood sample from turtle #19 for analysis. Once analyzed, blood samples can tell us a great deal about the overall health of an animal.

During each exam, staff also take radiographs (commonly referred to as “x-rays”), weigh each animal, take a core body temperature, and assess the overall physical condition of the turtle. All of this information, along with the information that was sent with the turtles from New England Aquarium, has created a baseline for monitoring each animal’s health while in rehabilitation.

All five turtles did well during their exams. With a better understanding of their current health status, we can now begin the long-term rehabilitation process. Results showed that many of the turtles are underweight and experiencing pneumonia. Some of them also have abrasions and cuts from being tossed up on the beach when they were cold-stunned.

In the photo below, you can see that turtle #18 has red circular spots on his jaw. These are abrasions that he sustained during stranding. The abrasions are healing well, but we will keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t become infected.

Cold-stun turtles commonly have to undergo a lengthy rehabilitation because their immune system is suppressed during the cold-stunning process. This often makes the animals more susceptible to secondary infections.

And even though these turtles are sick, they are still wild animals with great power in their flippers. How else would they be able to travel as far as they do? During exams we have to make sure to hold the flippers properly for the safety of the turtle and our staff, as Cara demonstrates here:

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard work, but having the chance to help these endangered turtles is very rewarding. I especially love working with turtles because they are just so cute! Below is turtle #20. The lighter yellowish-orange spot just under his nostrils is a scab covering an area of abrasion. We’ll continue to monitor it, but it appears to be healing well on its own.

Caring for these animals is very expensive. Food, medicine, and equipment can cost up to $200 a day for each turtle. As a nonprofit, our program depends on the support of grants and private funding. If you are a supporter of MARP, think about a donation this holiday season!

Stay tuned for more updates from our team!

MARP helps with New England turtle crisis

Once again, our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) has been called on by our aquarium neighbors to the north to help with the rehabilitation of cold-stunned turtles.

The migration season for sea turtles along the Atlantic coast began weeks ago, with the colder water temperatures signaling the animals to make their move to warmer waters. Each year, many sea turtles get caught in the frigid waters of the Northeast before they have a chance to migrate, and end up suffering from a condition known as “cold-stunning.” This condition is the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia, and causes the turtles to become lethargic, emaciated and immune-suppressed.

The New England Aquarium (NEAq) has already been seeing an unusually high number of stranded sea turtles this season. At the time of this posting, NEAq has received 115 turtles in its rehabilitation center, and is receiving additional turtles at a faster rate than the team can stabilize the cold-stunned turtles and transfer them to other facilities.

As a stranding partner of the National Aquarium, NEAq reached out to us for help with transferring some turtles to Baltimore for long-term rehabilitation.

Transferring stabilized turtles to other facilities will allow NEAq to focus on the turtles in critical condition that are arriving off the beaches. There is a lot of work involved in saving cold-stunned turtles, but the rehabilitation team at NEAq has a very efficient and organized system for triaging and stabilizing the animals. You can read about NEAq’s efforts here.

Our MARP team prepared to help with this huge rehabilitation effort by organizing a transport of five endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from Boston to Baltimore earlier this week.

On December 2, the turtles were flown from Boston to Baltimore as part of a Civil Air Patrol mission. A huge thanks to pilot Walter Coats and co-pilot Arjang Doorandish for volunteering their time to get the turtles safely to Baltimore.

The turtles, weighing between 2 and 5 pounds, will likely be here in our rehabilitation facility for the next 6-8 months. Our animal care staff will be treating them for conditions such as pneumonia, emaciation and secondary blood infections.

Stay tuned for updates from our MARP team as we begin the long-term rehabilitation process.

Throughout the year, MARP works around the clock to help sick and injured animals get back on their flippers or fins. But these animals need your help. Food, medicine and equipment can cost up to $200 per day for one animal. This holiday season, think about a gift to MARP. Your donation will enable us to keep providing life saving medical treatment to some of the world’s most treasured animals.

A special delivery for MARP

MARP staff and volunteers have had a busy start to the new year after receiving three injured sea turtles from the New England Aquarium in mid-December. Due to extremely cold water temperatures in the New England region, the New England Aquarium rescued more than 100 sea turtles from local beaches in December alone, many on the brink of death due to cold-stunning.

Even though the New England Aquarium is known for its exceptional rehabilitation of sea turtles, that’s a lot of turtles for one Aquarium to handle. As some of the turtles began to stabilize, the New England Aquarium called on other facilities to help with the long-term rehabilitation process. Our MARP team was happy to help!

Our new patients were transported to Baltimore the week before Christmas, bundled in Chiquita banana boxes!

All three are Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which is the most common sea turtle species seen in the New England area. Kemp’s are considered one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world. There are around 20,000 individuals, with 8,000 nesting females. As you can see from the picture below, upon arrival the turtles were pretty beaten up due to being tossed around in the waves and against rocks.

The turtles seem to be adjusting well to their new habitat. They are eating on a normal schedule and becoming more active with each day. These are signs that the turtles are on their way to a successful rehabilitation.

A new turtle for MARP

The Marine Animal Rescue Program team has been very active with sea turtle rescues this year, and their work is not finished just yet. In late October a new green sea turtle patient was submitted to the MARP hospital. The turtle was found cold stunned in New Jersey and transported to the National Aquarium for rehabilitation.

“Cold stunning” occurs when sea turtles are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. Initial symptoms can include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy, followed by shock, pneumonia and possibly death. Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on external sources of heat to determine their body temperature. In cold water they do not have the ability to warm themselves, and must instead migrate to warmer waters.

Sea turtles are commonly found in waters off the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. during the summer and early fall. They typically begin to migrate south by late October. It is thought that animals foraging in shallow bays and inlets become susceptible to cold stunning because the temperatures in these areas can drop quite rapidly and unexpectedly.

Ideal body temperature for sea turtles is 80 F but upon arrival to the Aquarium the animal’s body temperature was just 72 F. After an initial examination the turtle was admitted to a pool with a water temperature of 73 F. The temperature was slowly increased to the ideal 78-80 range over the span of a few days.

Our veterinarians believe the turtle is about 2-3 years of age. Its current weight is just 6 pounds, which is fairly consistent for a turtle of that age class. The turtle is adjusting well to the water temperature and has been chowing down on brussel sprouts, romaine lettuce, and dandelion greens! The MARP team expects to release the turtle back into warmer waters in the few months.


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