Posts Tagged 'sea turtles'



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: Loggerhead Hatchling Scheduled for Release!

National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team has just received word that the loggerhead hatchling we rescued in October has passed his exit exam and will be released off the coast of North Carolina tomorrow (weather permitting)!

The loggerhead hatchling during it's exit exam earlier today!

The loggerhead hatchling during it’s exit exam earlier today!

First discovered on Assateague Island National Seashore just days before Hurricane Sandy, our team rescued and began caring for this loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. This was the first time our team had ever spotted a viable sea turtle hatchling on Maryland shores and the youngest turtle patient we’ve ever had at the Animal Care Center. Once it was deemed strong and healthy enough, the hatchling was transported to North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for further care.

We’re so thrilled that this little guy has continued to grow and is now ready to be released back into the ocean!

Stay tuned for a re-cap of his release!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Collaborative Conservation Efforts In the Name of Sea Turtles!

Animal Rescue Update

Staff with the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) recently returned from a several-day road trip adventure named ‘Sea Turtle Trek’ to transport and release 52 endangered sea turtles off the Florida coast. National Aquarium joined staff from the New England Aquarium to transport the precious cargo from both of our facilities and several of our regional stranding partners, including University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center, National Marine Life Center, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, Virginia Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium.

The turtles that were transported for release had stranded during the record-breaking 2012 cold-stun season and were treated at the rehabilitation facilities mentioned above.

The overall transport began around 5 am on Saturday, April 6th in Biddeford, Maine and finally arrived to the release beach just north of Jacksonville, Florida around 9:30 am on Sunday, April 7. During the transport, we stopped several times to meet our partners and pick up additional turtles.

By the last stop to meet the South Carolina Aquarium, the transport staff were challenged to make all of the transport boxes fit safely into the four Chevrolet Suburban’s – it was like a big game of Tetris at 5 am!

By the last stop to meet the South Carolina Aquarium, the transport staff were challenged to make all of the transport boxes fit safely into the four Chevrolet Suburban’s – it was like a big game of Tetris at 5 am!

The turtles rode in a climate controlled environment, and were monitored by biologists from both transporting facilities. Since turtles have all the same bodily functions as every other animal, the staff were relieved to stop for short breaks every few hours and catch some fresh air.

After arriving to the release location, the turtles were unloaded from the vehicles to adjust to the sunlight and warm Florida weather. Staff massaged the turtles’ muscles to combat possible muscle fatigue, and many of the turtles became quite active in their transport crates. Finally, the turtles were lined up on the beach by facility and released in groups.

SeaTurtleTrek release

It’s always interesting to see all the individual personalities of the turtles – some turtles take off for the water as quickly as possible and don’t look back, while others need a little more coaxing.

seaturtletrek team

Turtle releases are always a cause for celebration, and this one was no exception. Staff gathered for lots of photos with the turtles, and several group photos after the releases.

Staff then celebrated with a much needed lunch on the water near the release location, where there were lots of smiles and sharing of photos from the release. By 4pm we were back on the road again and headed north to our overnight location of Jekyll Island, GA. Our friends at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center were gracious enough to let us use their facility to accomplish our final task of the day –cleaning transport crates. The team came together to wash, disinfect, and dry 52 transport crates in just under 40 minutes. By the time the vehicles were packed up with clean crates, we were ready for showers, some dinner, and lots of sleep!

52 clean transport crates_PC NEAq

Photo via New England Aquarium

After breakfast the following morning, we took a short walk on Driftwood Beach at Jekyll Island – the beach there is amazing, and a photographers dream. After the walk, we returned to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to meet with our colleagues, tour the facility, and listen to a lecture from Dr. Terry Norton. After visiting the gift shop and saying good-bye to the wonderful staff at Georgia Sea Turtle Center, it was time to travel north once again and head home.

Driftwood Beach

This collaborative transport and release event is a true testament as to how stranding and conservation organizations work together to accomplish a common goal. We collectively responded to a record cold-stun season by bringing staff, resources, and facilities together to save as many endangered sea turtles as possible. The staff commitment from all these facilities is never in question – whether it’s providing animal care on holidays, responding to stranding events at moment’s notice, or traveling the entire East coast to transport and release turtles – we’re in it together!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

#SeaTurtleTrek Update – Back to the Big Blue!

The #SeaTurtleTrek release was a great success! 

After leaving Baltimore last night and driving through the night, our team and staff from New England Aquarium made it to the beach in Florida with 52 endangered sea turtles.

Welcome to Florida

Upon their arrival in Jacksonville, health samples were taken from each turtle.

Soon, it was time for the big beach release! The turtles were released by group in the following order: South Carolina Aquarium, Virginia Aquarium, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, National Marine Life Center, University of New England, National Aquarium and finally, New England Aquarium!

Thanks to everyone for the messages of support over the last few days, they meant a lot to the whole trek team!

#SeaTurtleTrek Update – And They’re Off!

The team from New England Aquarium arrived in Baltimore this evening ready to pick up our rehabilitated sea turtles and journey onto Florida for release!

Chet, a Kemp's ridley turtle, is ready to go on his adventure!

Chet, a Kemp’s ridley turtle, is ready to go on his adventure!

As we continue to travel down the East Coast, more turtles from our organization partners are being slated for release! Our teams will be making additional stops at Virginia Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium to pick up additional turtles.

Members of our MARP team prepping Biff, a green sea turtle, for the trip!

Members of our MARP team prepping Biff, a green sea turtle, for the trip!

Prior to New England’s arrival, our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team did final examinations of each turtle, placed them in their respective transport crates and covered them in a water-based lubricant to keep the turtles happy and feeling good during the 1,200 mile trek down to Jacksonville, Florida.

Once the crew from New England Aquarium arrived, our team quickly packed up the turtles and hit the road!

Once the crew from New England Aquarium arrived, our team quickly packed up the turtles and hit the road!

Want to see where the team is on their journey? Follow their live updates on Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr and Instagram using #SeaTurtleTrek  and/or check out this satellite map that’s tracking their progress:

Click on this map to pull up the trek's current geo-location!

Click on this map to pull up the trek’s current geo-location!

Stay tuned for more #SeaTurtleTrek updates from the road! 


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