Archive for the 'Turtles' Category



Animal Rescue Update: 11 Turtle Patients Ready for Release

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Health and Animal Rescue staff have been busy continuing to care for the 19 cold-stunned sea turtles currently in rehabilitation. Over the last three months, many of our patients have been treated for critical conditions, including: fungal and bacterial pneumonias, infections in their flipper joints and severe shell lesions.

I’m happy to announce that we currently have 11 turtles that are no longer on medications and are considered stable! We are now working with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the state of Florida to schedule a release date in the near future!

All the stable turtles have been getting full exams that will act as pre-release screening  exams, which include recheck radiographs, blood work, physical exams, and tagging. All releasable turtles must be tagged in some way – either metal flipper tags, a PIT tag (a microchip like your domestic dog/cat might have), or both. The metal flipper tags are applied to the rear flippers and are the equivalent of getting your ears pierced.

sea turtle tag

These tags will stay with the animals for many years after release, but may eventually fall out as they corrode or as the turtle grows. As a more permanent method of identifying the animal, we implant a small microchip under the skin that will stay with the animal indefinitely. These forms of ID are passive ways researchers can track released turtles and provide insight to migration patterns, foraging areas and past medical history.

Meet some of our patients ready for release! 

Chipper

This green sea turtle stranded in Ocean City, MD as a cold-stun and arrived to the National Aquarium with a dangerously low body temperature of only 37o F. A temperature this low in sea turtles can be fatal, and our staff had to be careful to warm the turtle very slowly over several days. In fact, he was so cold on admittance, that in order to prevent his body temperature from rising too quickly, we actually had to utilize ice to stabilize his temperature.

national aquarium animal rescue turtle

Chipper has amazingly made a full recovery. He was prescribed long-term fluid therapy to combat blood changes due to the cold-stunning, but otherwise has had a clean bill of health.

Goose

Goose is a Kemp’s ridley that was cold-stunned in Cape Cod and transferred to us by the New England Aquarium. Goose is the smallest turtle this season – he was admitted weighing less than 2 lbs, and is now over 3.5 lbs! He was treated for anemia (low iron), a high white blood cell count, and mild pneumonia.

While Goose is the smallest turtle we currently have in rehabilitation, he has a big personality and makes our staff laugh. He’s not ashamed to scavenge small pieces of produce from his green sea turtle neighbors, even though Kemp’s ridley’s don’t typically eat plant-based foods.

Jester

Jester is a Kemp’s ridley that also came to us from New England Aquarium. He was treated for pneumonia, shell lesions, and mild skin lesions.

national aquarium animal rescue

Jester has gained 2 lbs on a diet of squid, shrimp, capelin, and crab while in rehab!

Stay tuned for details on their upcoming release! 

Australia Staff Caring for Eight Snapping Turtle Hatchlings!

We’re excited to share that our staff in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes is now caring for eight snapping turtle hatchlings!

snapping turtle hatchlings

After announcing our first hatchling in late February, Aquarium staff have been very excited to see so many additional hatchlings emerge! The National Aquarium is the only Aquarium in the United States to house this turtle species. This occasion marks the first time any facility has successfully bred northern Australian snapping turtles!

All of our hatchlings are doing great – staff have observed them exhibiting lots of healthy behavior like swimming and basking in the open. The team will continue to monitor and care for these babies behind-the-scenes until they’re are grown enough to transition into the exhibit habitats.

Stay tuned for more updates as these hatchlings continue to grow! 

Turtle Tuesday: Baby Northern Australian Snapping Turtle!

We’re excited to share some baby news out of our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit! On the morning of February 14th, one of our herpetologists discovered a northern Australian snapping turtle hatchling!

national aquarium northern australia snapping turtle hatchling

The eggs, laid by our female Australian snapping turtle on September 4, 2013, were immediately placed in an incubator behind-the-scenes for close observation. This is the first hatchling to emerge from the group!

The National Aquarium is the only Aquarium in the United States to house this turtle species. Further more, this occasion marks the first time any facility has successfully bred northern Australian snapping turtles!

Our baby currently ways about 24 grams. Adults of this species can reach up to five kilograms in size!

national aquarium northern australia snapping turtle hatchling

Our new hatchling will remain behind-the-scenes until it is large enough to safely transition onto exhibit.

Stay tuned for more updates as our team continues to monitor the remainder of our eggs! 

Illustrating the Effects of Cold-Stunning on Sea Turtles

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

I’m proud to announce that an illustration depicting the physiological effects of cold-stunning in sea turtles, was recently awarded an honorable mention in the 2013 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge! The illustration, which was the result of a collaborative relationship between the National Aquarium and the Johns Hopkins Department of Art as Applied to Medicine, was drafted by student Katelyn McDonald.

The illustration depicts the physical and physiological (affecting the function of organs, tissues, and cells) effects of a cold stunning on sea turtles.

cold-stun illustration

 Sea turtles are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature relies on the temperature of their environment. Cold-stunning is essentially hypothermia (low body temperature) for sea turtles. Cold-stunning events in the northeast region cause chronic illnesses for turtles, which must undergo months of rehabilitation. While the turtles may not appear sick externally, the illustration demonstrates the multitude of internal illnesses and complications that result from chronic low body temperature.

cold-stun illustration

A closer look at Katelyn’s illustration of the effects cold-stunning have on sea turtles.

Founded in 1911, the Johns Hopkins Department of Art as Applied to Medicine was the first of its kind in the world. This intense two-year graduate program has trained medical illustrators to advance medical and scientific knowledge using illustration.

For more than 20 years, students from this program have worked with our Vice President of Biological Programs, Dr. Brent Whitaker, and staff as part of their training. The illustrations produced from this collaborative relationship have been published in books, journal articles, pamphlets, and training manuals and have been used for a variety of other purposes.

We’re excited that Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation have chosen the cold-stun piece as an Honorable Mention for the 2013 Visualization Challenge. Congratulations to Katelyn on this tremendous accomplishment!

Animal Rescue Expert

An Update on our Sea Turtle Patients!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The cold-stun turtle season has died down, and 19 turtles are now being cared for by our Animal Rescue team. Fifteen of our turtle patients came from Cape Cod; three traveled South from New Jersey; and one came to our facility from Ocean City, Maryland. Thus far, all 19 turtle patients have taken their rehabilitation in stride! Currently, our team has 8 stable patients, 8 less critical and 3 critical patients.

national aquarium animal rescue

Our hospital pool is teeming with patients!

Cold-stunned sea turtles are typically admitted with abrasions and lesions from the rocky and rough winter seashores. Many also have secondary infections, including pneumonia, upper respiratory infections and joint swelling.

As you can imagine, keeping 19 turtles on track with medical treatments, feedings and enrichment can become quite a handful, but the Animal Rescue staff and volunteers have come together, and the success stories continue to mount! To date, we have three turtles that are completely off medications (which means we are hopeful for release options in the near future) as well as a few turtles that have really turned a positive corner in their treatment and diet plans.

A Kemp’s Ridley turtle named Charlie had a particularly rough start to his rehabilitation process. Charlie was not eating consistently and our veterinary and husbandry staff were having a tough time pinpointing what could be causing the changes in his behavior and health. After a CT scan at John’s Hopkins, several medications and daily ultrasounds, we found a mass near his heart that may have been causing some discomfort and/or health troubles.

national aquarium turtle charlie

Charlie

Over the last few days, Charlie has taken a great leap forward in his rehabilitation! He is not only eating the same amount as the healthy sea turtles, but the mass near his heart is getting smaller and smaller with each ultrasound that our veterinary staff complete!

Another Kemp’s Ridley patient, Blade, underwent surgery with our vet staff last week to repair a shell fracture. We’re happy to report that Blade is recovering well after the procedure and his fracture is officially on-the-mend!

national aquarium sea turtle blade

Blade pre-surgery on January 21, 2014.

As for our other patients, we are continuing to follow treatment plans and behavioral observations so that we can add more of them to our “stable” column. In the meantime, these 19 sea turtles are chowing down on three pounds of food per day — consisting of squid, shrimp, capelin ( a lean fish) and the occasional soft shell blue crab. With a diet like that, and the fantastic care from our staff many releases are sure to come for these beautiful sea turtles!

national aquarium animal rescue expert jennifer dittmar


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