Posts Tagged 'MARP'



MARP Update – Caring for 2 Rescued Sea Turtles

The National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team has two new patients in the Animal Care Center (ACC). The sea turtles, named London and Olympian, were originally found floating off the coast of New Jersey, and were rescued by our stranding partner,  New Jersey Marine Mammal Stranding Center (NJMMSC).

London, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, stranded on July 25 outside of a power plant, suffering from wounds associated with an impingement ( much like tendinitis). Our team is treating London for a bruised shell and possible pneumonia. London has been eagerly munching on shrimp and squid, and has become more active over the last two weeks.

London was injured at a power plant in New Jersey and is now being rehabilitated by our staff. Photo courtesy of Pat Venturino

Olympian, a green sea turtle, was spotted floating off the New Jersey coast on August 13. After being brought in, NJMMSC realized that Olympian was suffering from a severe case of edema, an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin that causes swelling. The edema initially decreased during the first 24 hours in rehabilitation, but Olympian continues to have a buoyancy problem. Our staff is working hard to diagnose the reason behind the buoyancy problem, but Olympian seems to be slowly responding to treatment. Olympian is eating more every day and is enjoying a diet of shrimp, squid, romaine lettuce, green peppers, and Brussels sprouts!

Olympian is eating well and loves to munch on greens like lettuce. Photo courtesy of Pat Venturino

Both London and Olympian are being closely monitored at the Aquarium’s off-site Animal Care Center (ACC). The ACC is an off-site facility where animals clearing quarantine are held before entering an exhibit, and where wild animals in need of rehabilitation stay. Earlier this summer, MARP and Aquarium staff worked together to get our new sea turtle rehabilitation center up and running. Several precautions were adjusted or added during the recent renovation so that all animals remain safe and healthy during their stay at our facility.

Please remember, if you are out on the water, keep your eye out for marine wildlife in our area. It is around this time that we see different animals migrating through our local waters, as Maryland waters are a thoroughfare for several ocean species. Animals that the MARP team usually sees in this region include sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seals. While sea turtles will generally stay in the water, they do surface for breaths of air, so be careful if out on a boat. Boat strikes are, unfortunately, a common cause of marine animal injury. Click here to find out more ways you can help protect marine animals!

Stay tuned for more updates about London and Olympian as they continue to rehabilitate with our MARP team! 

MARP Makes Connections at OC Shark Tournament

On June 15 and 16, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team joined several other partners at the Ocean City Shark Tournament at the OC Fishing Center in west Ocean City, Maryland.

Mark Sampson, the tournament director and a partner and friend of the National Aquarium, stresses the importance of conservation and reminds participants each year of safe fishing practices. Every year prior to the tournament, Mark provides a clinic at the OC Fishing Center to discuss shark identification, safe handling, release, and rigging techniques.

The MARP team pulled out all the stops, giving visitors access to walk through a 56-foot inflatable replica of a sei whale. These whales are seen in our waters off the coast of Maryland, as they use our warmer waters as a thoroughfare. Our volunteers constructed this amazing whale with the help of Damon Pla, who has graciously donated his time and artistic expertise to these beautiful artwork displays and the skeleton along the inside of the ever-popular sei whale.

Sei whale and leatherback turtle art

Sei whale and leatherback turtle art

Visitors of all ages took the opportunity to learn more about these animals, as well as others, when they ventured into the “belly” of the whale. There was not one person who did not come out smiling, and with a little bit more knowledge about this particular species.

Kids walking in sei whale

Kids walking in the sei whale

The tournament was a success, even though the weather was not very cooperative while fishermen were out on the water. On Friday, one boat braved the heavy winds and high seas until they decided to turn back around at noon. They did turn in a release report, however, which included a sandbar and spinner shark.

On Saturday, eight out of 11 boats went out into the 15-20-knot winds and 5-foot-high waves. Early morning showed promise, with several spinner sharks being recorded and released, and by the end of the day, seven teams had caught and released 22 sharks.

Overall, 44 sharks were caught and released, which included six mako, 13 sandbar or dusky, 21 spinner, two hammerhead, and two tiger; none of which were brought in for weigh-in at the dock. The only fish brought in to the docks throughout the entire tournament were three bluefish.

MARP volunteer Rob Filip talking with a family

MARP volunteer Rob Filip talking with a family

Although this is our first year to join the festivities at the OC Shark Tournament, we do hope that this continues for future years!

Interested in tag-and-release shark fishing? Join our annual shark tagging trip! During this trip, the public is invited to join Aquarium staff for a day of shark tagging off the coast of Ocean City, MD. Tagging sharks provides scientists with information on stock identity, migration and abundance, age and growth, mortality, and behavior.

A new rehab area for rescued sea turtles

Greetings from the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP)! Usually around this time of year we would be sharing stories of rescued animals that are in our care here at the National Aquarium; however, with the mild winter that we had here in the Mid-Atlantic region, staff have not received many calls about animals in need of our help. That does not mean that the staff has been on an extended vacation, though…

In preparation for the “turtle season,” the Aquarium’s MARP staff and Animal Care Center (ACC) staff have been working alongside contractors to get the new sea turtle rehabilitation area up and running. That’s right — the NEW sea turtle rehab area is now complete and ready for its first patient, and MARP is ready to answer those calls for help!

The Animal Care Center is an off-site facility where animals clearing quarantine are held before entering an exhibit, and where wild animals in need of rehabilitation stay. Making sure that the quarantine protocols were followed during this transition has been the biggest step, as there are shared spaces that all staff use, including the kitchen areas. Several precautions were adjusted or added so that all animals remain safe and healthy during their stay at the ACC.

With the help of Andrew Pulver, Darius Hunter, and the ACC staff, the transition has been a huge success, with all equipment in place and the new pool systems up and running smoothly! Currently, the MARP team is keeping a close eye on the water temperatures, to make sure that the new pools are going to be in the proper temperature range for the turtles that we normally take in this time of year. The temperature range that we typically keep for rehabilitation purposes is between 77° and 86°F, and we also keep at least one pool at a lower temperature to mimic the current ocean temperatures. These fluctuations are monitored continually throughout the off-season, even when we don’t have turtles in rehab.

So while there are still a few minor details to work out as far as equipment is concerned, staff members are eager to find and develop new enrichment ideas for the new pools’ large front windows.

Until then, just remember that if you are out on the water this spring and summer, keep your eye out for marine wildlife in our area. It is around this time that we see different animals migrating through our local waters, as the Chesapeake Bay acts as a thoroughfare for several ocean species. Animals that the MARP team usually sees include sea turtles and seals. While sea turtles will generally stay in the water, they do surface for breaths of air, so be careful if out on a boat. Boat strikes are an unfortunately common cause of marine animal injury.

As for seals, this time of year brings them warm sunshine as they pass along the Eastern Shore, so basking areas such as local boat ramps/docks, small islands off the coast, and even public beaches make good haul-out locations for these animals. The MARP team just asks that you keep your distance, as they can be aggressive if approached, and please call the Aquarium’s stranding hotline at 410-373-0083 to let us know if you see one in our area! Healthy or not, we would love to know when these animals are starting to venture along the Maryland coastline.

Gearing up for seal season

‘Tis the season for the East Coast to receive guests, in the form of seals. It is a spectacular sight to see these animals come and rest on our local beaches, but the Marine Animal Rescue team would like to keep you safe while you enjoy these animals. Please read over the following information on how to properly view these animals, and how you can help report a sighting or injured seal during this winter season.

Typically in our Mid-Atlantic region, we see four types of seals, including harp, gray, hooded, and harbor seals. These animals are semi-aquatic, meaning they can survive for lengths of time both in water and on land. When we spot seals on land, they are usually resting after long swims, or even warming up in the sunlight. They are generally solitary animals, but will haul out (on land) in larger groups as a survival tactic. Knowing when and where these animals are hauling out is important information for the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) staff. If you would like to report a sighting in your area, feel free to contact the National Aquarium’s Hotline at 410-373-0083.

Along the Eastern Shore, the MARP team has first responders who are specially trained to assess an animal’s condition from a safe distance, and know how to approach the public to teach them more about these animals. The federal law states that “disturbing, harassing, or injuring seals is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.” It is very important that the public knows not to treat the seal like a domesticated animal. This includes but is not limited to feeding, touching, or approaching the seal. When pups are weaned from their mothers they are opportunistic feeders, and if the pup is not yet weaned and human interaction occurs, the mother may abandon the pup.

The most helpful thing you can do for the animal, regardless of the animal’s condition, is to stay at least 150 feet away from the seal and call the MARP hotline at 410-373-0083. Just as dogs will often growl if uncomfortable with humans in their presence, seals will emit a deep growl and show teeth–this means that you are too close to the animal. You should return to a safe distance and ask that others do the same. 

Once our staff and first responders are onsite, the animal’s health and behaviors are evaluated.  The team is looking for any signs of injury such as entanglement, sores or abrasions, open wounds, bleeding, cataracts, dehydration, and emaciation. If injured, the animal will already have a high level of stress due to the fact that it has stranded itself on the beach. Approaching the animal could increase stress even further, making the animal feel the need to flee the area, even when injured. This decreases the chances that the MARP team will be able to help the animal. So keeping your distance is very important for the health and welfare of these animals.

The best way to tell whether an animal is healthy and merely resting, or sick and injured lies within its posture. When a seal is lying in a “banana-shaped” position, the animal is simply resting and will more than likely return to the water when it’s ready.

If a seal is lying in a “bear rug” position with its stomach and head lying on the ground, the animal is in need of further monitoring and, potentially rehabilitation.

As a parting thought, the MARP team would like to remind everyone that it is never a good idea to try to approach, feed, or touch any wild animal. Wild animals, including seals, carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. If you find a wild animal, the best thing to do is contact the appropriate authorities for information. We recommend starting with your local Animal Control officers. These are trained experts with knowledge of local species and connections to other wildlife experts for unusual cases.

Anna the loggerhead turtle goes home

We’re happy to announce that the loggerhead turtle that was admitted to the National Aquarium for rehabilitation late this summer was released this week!

The Ocean City Beach Patrol officer who saved her and carried her to shore—on a boogie board!—had the honor of naming her, and he chose “Anna.” MARP staff is amazed at how far this turtle has come in just a few months. When she arrived, she was severely emaciated and covered with a heavy barnacle load, and could barely swim. Now she’s a healthy, active turtle with a big appetite!

Staff from the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program released Anna, along with a loggerhead that underwent rehab there and four yearling head-start loggerheads from the Virginia Aquarium. All the turtles were released from a vessel off the coast of North Carolina, where water temperatures are warm enough this time of year to support sea turtles.

This is a great example of how aquariums and stranding response facilities work together to attain common goals and give sick and injured animals a second chance at life. A big thanks to MARP volunteers and our partners at the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program!

MARP depends on the generosity of volunteers to operate, but medical equipment, medications, and food for caring for these animals is expensive. Your gift makes it possible to continue this important work.  Donate to MARP »


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