Archive for the 'Turtles' Category

Animal Rescue Update: Cold-Stunned Turtles Released!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

On June 21st, the National Aquarium and the National Marine Life Center jointly released sea turtles from this year’s cold-stun season!

Throughout their stay with the National Aquarium, each of the turtles we released had a different reason for being in rehabilitation, and a different path to recovery.

Let’s take a closer look at Maverick, Charlie, and Tombstone:

Maverick was one of the season’s first Kemp’s ridley patients in November 2013.  He was a cold-stun off of the New Jersey coastline.  Upon arrival here in Baltimore, our husbandry and veterinary staff put Maverick on antibiotics and monitored a shell fracture that we found under all of the algae on his carapace (top part of the shell).

Maverick

Maverick being released yesterday!

After just a couple months, the fracture was starting to stabilize and rejoin at the base of the carapace.  At an entry weight of 1.04kg, we are proud to say that Maverick has put on weight and is currently 2.58kg, eating about 38g of capelin, blue crabs, squid, and shrimp per day.

Charlie, also a Kemp’s ridley, was one of the more intensive cases for our team this year. During his initial exams here in Baltimore, we discovered a small mass near Charlie’s heart. At the time we found the mass, Charlie had also begun to refuse food, and became increasingly lethargic. Husbandry and Veterinary staff put all of their effort into finding out why this mass had developed and how to treat it.

Charlie

Charlie making his way to the water during yesterday’s release!

We started an innovative form of baby aspirin therapy, and the mass started to decrease in size. Earlier this month, our vet staff cleared Charlie for release. We could not be more proud of how far he has come!

Tombstone, who joined our ranks from Cape Cod, presented an interesting housing situation for our team. Tombstone started his rehabilitation with two other pool-mates, and staff noticed that he would float at the surface of the water, another turtle would take the midline of water, and the third would rest and eat along the bottom.  To ensure that the turtles are able to forage and swim properly out in the wild, we didn’t want to further encourage floating at the surface, so we transferred Tombstone to a separate pool by himself.

Tombstone

Tombstone being released at Point Lookout State Park!

Between battling the current and chasing food, he finally learned to dive to the bottom and look more comfortable in the water, exhibiting more normal behaviors!

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining sea turtle patients! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Turtle Tuesday: An MRI Scan For Blade

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Participating in the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. As you probably already know, the National Aquarium is part of a stranding response network that encompasses the North East region of the United States. Many of the turtles we handle initially are found as “cold stunned” along Cape Cod beaches in Massachusetts.

New England Aquarium stabilizes animals and rehabilitates many, but often reaches out to partner organizations such as us for assistance. This was the case for one of the animals currently in our care, Blade, who came to us last December.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Blade initially had a large fracture of the upper and lower shell (carapace and plastron) that healed nicely over the first two months of rehabilitation. After initially improving, Blade started to decline significantly in mid-February. Diagnostics showed he was septic (systemic bacterial infection) with a resistant strain of Enterococcus bacteria.

His front flipper digit joints began to swell and it appeared he had bacterial infections developing in them and he stopped using his front limbs. This is very rare in sea turtles; normally digit infections don’t impact their swimming ability.

Radiographs and a CT scan showed the shoulder joints were infected as well. Biopsy and cultures confirmed the joint infection was due to the same bacteria found in the blood.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

After aggressive antibiotic therapy and general supportive care, we were able to resolve the sepsis and distal limb infections and he showed some improvement in strength, but remained unusually quiet and weak and refused to use the front limbs. A physical therapy program was started to improve limb motion.

In order to check for bacterial abscesses in his organs and brain, we took Blade for an MRI scan at Veterinary Imaging of the Chesapeake. There were was no evidence of organ or brain abscesses found on MRI, although the shoulder joints were abnormal, as expected.

**Photos courtesy of Red Leash Photography

In the last month, Blade has continued to improve clinically and we are planning to do an arthroscopy to remove abnormal and potentially infected tissue from the shoulder joints. Our ultimate goal is to get Blade to a point where we can be released.

Stay tuned for more updates on Blade as his rehabilitation continues!

national aquarium Leigh Clayton

Turtle Tuesday: Three Animal Rescue Patients Ready for Release

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

We are happy to share that three (Charlie, Maverick and Tombstone) of our remaining 6 sea turtle patients are ready for release!

In the past two weeks, these turtles have successfully come off their antibiotic treatments and have a clean bill of health from our veterinary staff! As typical with every release, we’re in the process of scheduling exit examinations, so that each turtle patient can be properly tagged for release later this month!

sea turtle tag

An example of one of the tags used to track some of our released sea turtle patients.

The patients still in-house receiving treatment are Cougar, Blade and Iceman.  Our team is currently trying to manage the ongoing shoulder joint injuries both Cougar and Blade presented with at the time of admittance.

Just yesterday, Cougar traveled to Annapolis with our Animal Health team for an arthroscopy procedure. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure in which an examination is performed using an endoscope inserted into the joint through a small incision.  This procedure allows our veterinarians to better assess the full scope of damages to the area for a better outlook on treatment options.

Cougar is back and resting in his pool with his tank-mate Blade, who is having the same difficulties with his forelimb joints.  Our husbandry staff and team of veterinarians are developing plans for both of these Kemp’s ridley sea turtles so that we can get them back on track and healing properly.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Blade

Iceman is still receiving treatment for some plastron shell abrasions.  Our team was able to remove infected tissue from the areas a last week so that his abrasions could heal properly.

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining patients, and as always, thank you for supporting our work!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Happy World Turtle Day!

There are approximately 300 different types of turtles, including seven species of sea turtles. It is estimated that turtles have existed for over 200 million years, making them some of the oldest living creatures on Earth!

Turtles are best known for their hard outer shell, also called a carapace, which protects them. Turtles don’t have teeth, so they use their sharp beaks to tear up their food.

Currently, more than half of the world’s turtle species are threatened or endangered due to centuries of  poorly regulated trade, habitat loss and hunting.

In addition to terrestrial threats, the more the ocean is filled with plastic and debris, the more it is becoming a treacherous environment for sea turtles. Did you know? Plastic bags, for example, can look like jellyfish underwater, causing hungry sea turtles to devour them.

Marine Debris - Plastic Bags

If you were a turtle, could you tell the difference?

The bags are hard for the turtles to digest, and can be fatal if the plastic causes blockages in their digestive system. Research shows that young, ocean-dwelling turtles are eating twice as much plastic as turtles their age did 25 years ago.

Since plastic bags are petroleum-based, they do not biodegrade. By recycling plastic bags or using reusable bags, we can decrease the amount of plastic in the ocean and other water sources, therefore helping out our turtle friends!

Help us celebrate World Turtle Day by taking our 48 Days of Blue pledge to carry all of your purchases with reusable bags!

Animal Rescue Update: 13 Turtles Successfully Released in Florida!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

After five months in rehabilitation, 13 endangered sea turtles were successfully released in Florida last week! The turtles, all admitted for complications from cold-stunning, had made a full recovery and were ready for release. This time of year, the waters in the northeast are too cold for sea turtles, so our staff (and the turtles) got to take a road trip to Florida!

The morning of the release began with a staff briefing at 3:00 AM. After our briefing, staff quickly set up an “assembly line” to make it easier for staff – one staff pulled turtles from their enclosure, while two staff administered fluids and took exit photos of the turtles. Lastly, the turtles were handed off to the last staff member, who gave each turtle a massage of water-based lubricant to keep their shells hydrated and secured them in their designated transport boxes. The turtles were in the transport vehicle and on their way to Florida by 4:30 AM.

national aquarium animal rescue transport

Transport staff reported that the turtles were sporadically active throughout the drive, especially when driving over bumpy sections of road, or during windy conditions. While the turtles relaxed in their crates, our staff counted down the 755 miles that stood between them and their release destination!

The transport team arrived to the release point – Amelia Island – safely. After a release briefing, they quickly got to work unloading the turtles, opening the crates, and giving each turtle a brief final exam. Next came the fun part…releasing the turtles!

**Photos courtesy of Talbot Islands State Park staff!

The turtles wasted no time getting off the beach and back into their home water of the Atlantic Ocean! Some were a little faster than others, but they all eventually made their way to the water. Stinger, a green sea turtle, was the fastest into the water for the first group, and Goose, a Kemp’s ridley, was the fastest for the second group. Chipper, also a green sea turtle, ended up moving away from the water initially, but a staff member came to his assistance and got him back on track.

Release events are always a joyous time to reflect on the impact we’re having on endangered sea turtles. We’re quite literally giving these turtles a second chance at life, and a second chance to help restore their declining populations. You can help support the sea turtle rehabilitation efforts of Animal Rescue by making a monetary donation, or an in-kind donation from our Amazon Wish List!

Stay tuned for more updates on our remaining sea turtle patients! 

Animal Rescue Expert

Animal Rescue Update: 13 Turtles Ready for Release This Week!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue team is excited to announce that 13 of our current sea turtle patients in rehabilitation are going to be released this week! Animal Rescue and Animal Health staff have been busy the last few weeks clearing patients for releasing, making sure all releasable turtles have their required tags, and making sure we have all the pertinent paperwork and permits for the transport and release.

This Wednesday, several staff from the National Aquarium will pack the turtles for their long road trip south. So, how exactly do you transport a sea turtle? Each turtle is fitted for an appropriate sized transport carrier, which is padded with foam and towels to provide lots of cushion and support.

Each turtle will receive some fluids just under their skin to help keep them hydrated, and they’ll also get a water-based lubricant massaged onto their shell to help retain moisture, and some sterile eye lubricant helps keep their eyes moist. Finally, each turtle will be packed into our temperature-controlled transport vehicle and will be safely secured for the transport.

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Once our vehicle is ready, our staff will make the 800 mile drive to northeast Florida to release the turtles. We’ll have a total of 9 Kemp’s ridley and 4 green sea turtles to release on this trip, and the much warmer waters of Florida are perfect this time of year.

Stay tuned for more updates on their release, as well as updates on our remaining rehab patients!

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Animal Update – April 11

national aquarium animal update

Mary River Turtle in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes

A Mary river turtle is now on exhibit in our Animal Planet Australia exhibit!

Mary River Turtle

Australia’s largest species of freshwater turtle can only be found in the southeastern region of Queensland’s Mary River – the derivative of its common name. Due to its isolated range and a high pet trade demand for the species in the ’60s and ’70s, the Mary river turtle is currently one of the top 25 most endangered turtle species in the world.

Did you know? The tail of a Mary river turtle is lined with gill-like structures, which they use to extract oxygen from the water and remain submerged for long periods of time!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


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