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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!