Posts Tagged 'marine animal rescue program'



Update on the loggerhead in rehab

The loggerhead sea turtle that was admitted at the end of August is doing very well in rehab. She is eating about 2 pounds of food per day; her diet consists of shrimp, squid (calamari!), capelin, and two blue crabs. She’s keeping the staff and volunteers on their toes with how strong she’s getting!

MARP staff has also introduced enrichment into her daily routine. Staff monitors her closely to make sure she cannot destroy or ingest the enrichment items. So far heavy-duty dog toys are doing the trick, since she can’t get her sharp beak on these toys to shred them.

Enrichment

We’ll continue to update you on her progress throughout her stay here at the National Aquarium!

Last Kemp’s ridley turtle released back to sea

From Amber White, Marine Animal Rescue Program Aide

What, to many, seemed like a cold and dreary day this weekend was an exciting day for a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle; after more than nine months in rehab, he was finally ready to go home.

Ready to go home

On October 1, the last of the 11 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles the Marine Animal Rescue Program took in last winter was released into the Chesapeake Bay from the quiet beach at Point Lookout State Park.

Even though the air temperatures have dropped and it feels like fall, the bay water still provides optimal water temperatures for this little guy to start his new life back at sea.

This turtle was kept in rehab longer than the others for continued observation of his digestive system. We always make sure we give each turtle the absolute best chance for survival in the wild. Unfortunately, in their natural environment, sea turtles come across many manmade materials that look like the food they would eat, such as plastic bags, balloons, and small plastic objects. Ingesting this trash can injure marine animals, or even result in death from asphyxiation.

With his X-rays and final medical examination receiving the OK from our wonderful veterinary staff, he was given the green light for release.

Neither rain nor wind could stop this turtle from making the trek across the sand and back into his natural habitat.

Release

A big thank you to the staff at Point Lookout State Park, for allowing us to use their beach for all of our releases this summer. We have a great partnership with the park staff and always look forward to working with them.

Going on midnight turtle patrol in Costa Rica

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

I’m back in the United States after an amazing trip to Costa Rica. Our last group adventure took us to Manuel Antonio National Park. Relatively speaking, the area around this National Park is pretty developed, and many Costa Ricans come here for the beaches. It has had some problems in the past from pollution from the nearby towns contaminating the streams and development cutting off access for the animals. It has gotten much better, but it will only stay that way if people continue to be diligent.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

The park has several trails that cut through the forest and end up on the beaches of the Pacific. Along the way, our group saw amazing insects like golden orb spiders, baby tarantulas, walking sticks, and huge grasshoppers. We also saw howler monkeys, crab-eating raccoons, white-tailed deer, two- and three-toed sloths, a yellow-crowned night heron, tree boa, and many black iguanas. The monkeys and raccoons have learned to steal food from the tourists on the beach, similar to the way raccoons take food from campers in our parks! If you want the comfort of an accessible park with nearby conveniences, all the while providing spectacular views and glimpses of local wildlife, this park is for you.

Bats, Howler Monkey, Heron

Lesser white lines bats, howler monkey, and yellow-crowned night heron

On Saturday I left the rest of the group at the airport and met up with one of our conservation partners for a trip to the Caribbean. Didiher Chacon, director of WIDECAST (Wider  Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network) Latin America, drove us to one of his sea turtle nesting beaches just south of Tortuguerro National Park.

This project is being run by the wonderful people of La Tortuga Feliz foundation, and Didiher has been their adviser for the past couple of years. Like many turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica, it is run by just a few staff members and relies on volunteers to do much of the work. The good ones, like this one, also actively seek support from the local community. In this case, the community employs local guides for turtle walks!

We got to the site in the late afternoon after a short boat ride from the nearest town. The staff and volunteers were all amazing, several of them deciding to stay long term after falling in love with the place and the project during their three-week volunteer stint.

Within the hour, we had discovered that one of the leatherback sea turtle nests in the hatchery was erupting and baby turtles were emerging. We helped gather them up for weights and measurements and placed them in a container for a later release. We did not want to release them in the middle of the day when the black sand was too hot and predators could easily spot them. At dusk, we went back down to the hatchery to let them go. It was a truly wonderful experience. I have participated in several nesting events, but never before witnessed this part of the process. What a sight!

After the release, I gave a presentation to the local community and project staff and volunteers on the National Aquarium’s work with sea turtles. There was no electricity at the site, so we hooked the computer and projector up to a generator for the presentation. Since there are very few sea turtle nests in our area, I mostly spoke about the work our Marine Animal Rescue Program does with rescue, rehabilitation, and release of our local species. I talked about the care our patients receive by our veterinary staff and the technologies we use for diagnosis. I talked about the time and effort our MARP staff and volunteers put in to the care of each animal and the joy of watching them be released back into their natural environment. It was easy to connect with my audience (even through the translator) because it was obvious that we were all participating in different but equally important aspects of the conservation of these amazing animals.

At midnight I joined a turtle patrol. Each night during the nesting season, local guides and project volunteers walk the beach to look for nesting turtles. In this region, it’s important to relocate all nests to the hatchery because poaching and turtle hunting is still prevalent, even though it is illegal in Costa Rica. While walking the beach, we saw a group of civil police on patrol. They were there to catch poachers. Later on, we heard that they confronted nine poachers that night and had confiscated a machete, sacks, and other poaching equipment. At first, I was comforted by the police presence on the beach, but Didiher informed me that in his two years on this project, this was only the second time he’s seen them and that they don’t have the resources to patrol regularly. In fact, their presence that evening was only made possible because La Tortuga Feliz paid for the gas for their boat.

The locals I spoke with that evening were passionate about saving these animals, but were disheartened by the continued disregard for the laws, and the inability of local law enforcement to enforce the laws. They are working very hard in their outreach efforts, for both local communities and in national campaigns, to emphasize the importance of protecting sea turtles, but as with all movements, this will take time. In the meantime, groups like WIDECAST, La Tortuga Feliz, and, most importantly, the local citizens that are working with them are providing a necessary foundation for the conservation of these species.

Volunteer Spotlight: College interns dive into conservation work

This summer, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) was lucky enough to take on four college student interns, thanks to generous grant funding from Dillon Fund and Praxair. In just eight short weeks, these enthusiastic students jumped feet-first into the world of conservation and the many career avenues that exist within the field. Each intern came to us with different backgrounds, school experiences, and personal strengths, but together they made a great team!

Zebidiah Buck, a rising senior at Lycoming College in Central Pennsylvania, had lots of experience researching freshwater reptiles and amphibians in local streams, but yearned to dive into the bigger waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean!

Other interns came to us from our very own Baltimore City; Russell Bunn is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with a degree in biology and marine/estuarine science, and LaVonna Livingston is a rising sophomore at University of Maryland College Park, who was previously part of the Aquarium on Wheels Program in high school. Tiana Jones is a rising sophomore at UMES who learned of ACT’s efforts by participating in several of our past restoration events through her volunteer work with the Maryland Conservation Corps.

This crew worked with both the Marine Animal Rescue Program and the Conservation Team, exposing them to a wide variety of experiences. They spent time behind the scenes at both the Baltimore and D.C. venues of the National Aquarium, and came face to face with some other amazing animals at the National Zoo, as well.

Some of their most rewarding work involved hands-on care of animals being rehabilitated at the Aquarium, and then assisting with the releases of several sea turtles and a gray seal! They planted marsh grass at Poplar Island, collected debris at Fort McHenry, canoed, camped, and generally took in everything the environmental world had to offer! One of the summer’s highlights included a week-long trip to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to explore graduate school options and learn more about the scientific research that supports marsh restoration.

These students were an invaluable asset to our educational programs and restoration trips, and helped us to complete projects that we simply could not have accomplished without their help. We thank them for their hard work and upbeat attitudes, and wish them the best of luck in their future conservation endeavors!

Join us in Ocean City for the 2011 Dolphin Count!

One of the joys of going to the beach is being able to see dolphins surf in the waves, or spotting a group of seals resting off the coast. The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program works hard throughout the year to monitor and respond to marine animals that inhabit Maryland’s coast, while educating the public about keeping our waterways safe and healthy for the animals we love so much.

This Friday, July 22nd, the public is invited to join Aquarium staff for the Annual Maryland Dolphin Count along the Atlantic coast of Maryland.

Annual dolphin counts help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look about dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health. We have learned that bottlenose dolphins use Maryland waters as a thoroughfare for migration, summertime breeding, and feeding along the way. With the help of volunteers we will continue to gather and analyze this information and learn more about the state of our waters and the dolphin populations that are found off our coast. 

The annual Dolphin Count involves spending a few hours on the beach watching the water for passing dolphins and filling out a data sheet. Aquarium staff will be stationed at the following locations:

  • Assateague State Park (Day Use Area)
  • 40th street in Ocean City at the beach
  • 130th street in Ocean City at the beach

Members of the public are welcome to join Aquarium staff at one of the above locations! Just look for Aquarium staff in blue shirts looking toward the water for dolphins! The count will begin at 9am and end at noon. The event is free and open to the public. As a reminder, it is always helpful to bring the following items for comfort:

  • A beach chair or blanket
  • Water to keep hydrated
  • Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses
  • Binoculars, optional

On Thursday, July 21st, join us at Seacrets: Jamaica USA (49th street in Ocean City, MD) from 3:30pm – 9:00pm for a special fundraiser to benefit the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program. Aquarium staff will have games and activities for kids beginning at 3:30 and all cover fees will be donated to the Marine Animal Rescue Program from 5-9. Join staff and volunteers for fun games and activities, and learn more about their important work in Ocean City!

For more information on either event, email MARP@aqua.org.

So, how many dolphins do you think we’ll count?


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