Posts Tagged 'new england aquarium'



Thoughtful Thursdays: MARP Turtle Update

This year, our friends at the New England Aquarium have received a record number of turtle patients to their Animal Care Center. After more than 160 severely cold stunned turtles came through their doors in the past month, they reached out to our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team for help in rehabilitating some of these turtles for release.

New England Aquarium's Animal Care Center is filled to the brim with patients!

New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center is filled to the brim with patients!
Photo via NEAQ

We currently have seven patients in our Animal Care Center’s turtle rehab area – three Kemp’s ridleys, three green sea turtles and one loggerhead.

One of our green sea turtle patients

One of our green sea turtle patients

All seven of our turtle patients are being treated for cold stunning – a hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to cold water for a prolonged period of time. In addition to cold stunning, two of the turtles have also presented common complications including pneumonia and unstable blood pH. Our team is working hard to treat these specific problems and the overall health of each turtle.

This Kemp's ridley is used to its new surroundings in our turtle rehab area!

This Kemp’s ridley is used to its new surroundings in our turtle rehab area!

The loggerhead turtle was the first patient to arrive at our facility from New England. In addition to being cold stunned, this turtle had also suffered from a dramatic injury to its front-right flipper, sustained before the initial rescue. As a result, the flipper had to be amputated. Although we’re always saddened to see these types of severe injuries, this new patient is a great example of how far our animal rehabilitation efforts have come in recent years.

Our loggerhead patient is by far our largest!

Our loggerhead patient is by far our largest!

As many may know, our beloved 400-pound green sea turtle, Calypso, originally came to National Aquarium as a rescue. Weighing just 6 pounds, this small turtle was cold stunned and had an infected left front flipper. The flipper was not treatable and was amputated. After the amputation, Calypso was deemed “non-releasable” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Calypso, a beloved member of our Aquarium family, has grown to weigh more than 400 lbs!

Calypso, a beloved member of our Aquarium family, has grown to weigh more than 400 pounds!

In more recent years, research has shown that many turtles with natural front flipper amputations can survive in the wild. In fact, we were able to rehabilitate and release our first turtle with an amputation, lovingly referred to as “Ed,” in 2006. Our MARP team tracked Ed via satellite tag to ensure that he was doing well after release.

We’re happy to report that our loggerhead patient is doing so well that we have an exit exam scheduled in early January. If all goes well, the turtle will be transferred to North Carolina for release!

Stay tuned for more updates from our MARP team! 

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.

Aquarium birds support the Ravens!

The other birds in Baltimore have sent a special message to New England:

And some harbor seals at the New England Aquarium sent one back to Baltimore!

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.


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