Archive for the 'National Aquarium Animal Rescue' Category



Animal Rescue Update: Two Turtle Patients Now in Rehab!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

With water temperatures in the Atlantic steadily dropping, sea turtles that perhaps stayed north a little too long are now faced with a long journey south towards warmer waters. Some of these sea turtles become cold-stunned (an illness equivalent to hypothermia in humans) and strand on our shores. This week, we received our first cold-stunned sea turtle patients of the season, two Kemp’s ridleys named Iceman and Maverick!

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

Our new arrivals both stranded within two days of one another off the coast of New Jersey, where water temperatures had taken a rapid dip into the low 60s over the last few months.

Iceman came in which a few small abrasions and a long laceration under his front flipper. He has weighed in at 7 pounds and has started to eat more regularly. His diet right now consists of squid, shrimp, and smelt.

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

Maverick weighs in at only 2 pounds and the rescue team is currently trying to get him to eat more regularly. Just like most of us don’t like to eat when we don’t feel well, we can only imagine how these little sea turtles feel when they first enter rehabilitation. So, our staff try to entice him with different foods to stimulate his hunting instincts and get him to eat. As of today, Maverick has started showing more signs of an appetite. Although small, we’re very pleased with this great start!

Stay tuned for more updates on these turtles progress in rehab, and stay tuned to find out which Top Gun name we choose for our next patient! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Dolphin Stranding Update: Investigative Range Extends Through Florida

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently provided an update on the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) affecting bottlenose dolphins in the mid-Atlantic. Based on recent stranding patterns and test results from stranded dolphins, the NOAA and UME Investigative Team formally expanded the range of the event to include New York through Florida – which translates to roughly 1,600 miles of Atlantic coast.

Over the past few weeks, above ‘normal’ baseline strandings for this time of year have been reported in North Carolina and South Carolina, meanwhile, Florida is just beginning to see an increase in dolphin strandings. The population of bottlenose dolphins from New York to Virginia is mainly migratory. These dolphins are beginning to migrate south to warmer waters, which is the likely reason that North Carolina and South Carolina are seeing an overall increase in strandings.

NOAA dolphin stranding numbers

This graph from NOAA shows the total number of strandings reported this year, by state – since it’s creation, raw data from Florida’s strandings has also been collected by NOAA.

In addition to expanding the range of the event, NOAA is also awaiting final test results to determine if the virus that is attributed to this UME is also responsible for the deaths of other dolphin and whale species. Three humpback whales and two pygmy sperm whales have tested positive as carriers of the morbillivirus, however, further testing is needed to determine if these animals displayed any clinical signs and if the virus was the cause of death.

The beginning of this UME was classified as July 1, and to date the event has proven to be quite significant. According to the official NOAA website for this event, there have been more than 900 dolphin strandings from New York to South Carolina during the time frame of January 1, 2013 to November 4, 2013 – this number is 4.5 times higher than the average number of strandings.

National Aquarium continues to support this event by responding to live-stranded dolphins in Maryland. In addition to boots-on-the-ground response, our National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff are supporting the event by assisting the Incident Management Team that is coordinating the response plans within the designated UME area.

national aquarium animal rescue expert jennifer dittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Turtle Nest Excavated at Assateague

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff recently joined the National Park Service (NPS) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) to excavate a loggerhead sea turtle nest at Assateague Island National Seashore.

loggerhead nest

The nest during excavation (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

The nest, laid on July 1, 2013, has been monitored by NPS staff for the past three months. While the typical incubation period for sea turtle nests south of North Carolina is approximately 60 to 70 days, northern sea turtle nests, such as those laid in Virginia, Maryland and even Delaware, are known to incubate for a longer period of time due to typically cooler temperatures.

After 110 days, this nest had not hatched and an excavation was planned for Friday, October 18. Excavation of nests is a standard practice to determine hatchling success and stage of development. During the excavation, the team collected detailed data such as depth and dimensions, temperature, as well as number of eggs in the nest.

temp reading in loggerhead nest

The excavation team taking a temperature reading (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

It was determined during the excavation that the turtles had not yet hatched, and there was still a possibility that the nest was viable. The eggs were carefully transferred to a transport container and brought back to our Animal Care Center for incubation.

loggerhead egg transport

Our Animal Rescue staff carefully placing the loggerhead eggs in a transport carrier (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

Our team is working closely with the Aquarium’s senior herpetologists to carefully incubate and monitor the nest. We are slowly warming the nest in a temperature controlled, humid environment and should have the nest warmed to an ideal temperature within a week. Sea turtles are reptiles and are therefore sensitive to temperature changes, so the process must be done very slowly. While we have seen signs of a potentially viable nest, we are cautiously optimistic about the total number of live hatchlings that might emerge.

As you may recall, we experienced the first confirmed successful sea turtle nest in Maryland last year. Our team was ecstatic to hear that the lone surviving hatchling from that nest was released off the coast of North Carolina back in April!

This nest represents a larger joint initiative with our partners at NPS and MD DNR to plan for and respond to these events.

Stay tuned for more updates on the nest! 

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Rooney and Portsmouth Released!

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

As you may have recently read, our Animal Rescue team was set to release our last two turtles in rehabilitation, loggerheads Rooney and Portsmouth!

Yesterday, we packed up the trusty truck with supplies and our two sea turtles, and headed to the warmer southern shore waters of Virginia Beach. Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding team was set to release two loggerhead sea turtles of their own, so we asked if they wouldn’t mind our team joining them for a few days.

At 1pm, at Sandbridge, Virginia, the four loggerheads were met with a crowd of over 300 people who came to bid them well wishes and safe travels as they head back into their natural environment!

Each turtle was accompanied by a satellite tag and an acoustic tag for tracking purposes and research opportunities. Soon, you’ll be able to follow their travels on our website as we track their adventure and navigation through the open ocean!

Join me in wishing Rooney and Portsmouth the best of luck out there! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

How the Shutdown is Affecting Stranding Response Organizations

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update
The government shutdown, now in its sixteenth day, has caused a ripple effect that impacts not only federal entities, but local, state, and private sectors as well.

The National Aquarium is a private, nonprofit aquatic education and conservation organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. While we are not a federally-operated facility, we depend on many federal partners to fulfill our mission, as do many private zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations. Our Animal Rescue division at the National Aquarium, along with all of our stranding response associates, has felt a real impact from the government shutdown.

Our Animal Rescue division is federally permitted to respond to and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals, etc) and sea turtles.

national aquarium animal rescue

The on-going shutdown has had impacted our daily operations in several different ways:

  • Reduced response area and capacity to respond to sick or injured marine mammals and sea turtles on federal property. Over half of the Atlantic coast of Maryland is federal property, which includes Assateague Island National Seashore. With limited staffing, patrols of the federal beach have subsided, as has reporting of animals in need and access to those potential animals.
  • Slowed investigation of the on-going Unusual Mortality Event (UME) affecting bottlenose dolphins along the mid-Atlantic. The ongoing federal investigation into the bottlenose dolphin UME that is suspected to be a result of an outbreak of dolphin morbillivirus, has been slowed by the shutdown. Private stranding facilities are still actively responding to stranded dolphins (where they can access them on non-federal property) and taking samples from the animals, but those samples have been delayed in shipping for testing due to the shutdown, and the investigation has slowed.
  • Skewed data for UME response and normal stranding operations. In areas that don’t have access to federal coastal property during the shutdown, there has been a perceived change in annual stranding data, with a lack of information coming from federal areas. This has been true for the ongoing UME, with lower numbers being reported in areas that have coastal federal response areas. We are also preparing for a possible increase in stranding numbers once the federal areas return to normal operation and report the potential ‘backlog’ cases.

Despite the government shutdown, stranding facilities have banded together to assist each other and continue to plan the response for the on-going Unusual Mortality Event. Our perseverance and continual communication with each other has allowed us to stay on task as much as possible during the shutdown, and fill the shoes of those federal entities that we normally report to on a daily basis.

national aquarium animal rescue expert

Animal Rescue Update: Loggerhead Patients Ready for Release!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

It is a bittersweet, yet exciting time of year for the remaining patients at our rehabilitation center.  Our remaining two loggerheads have passed their exit exams with flying colors and will be commuting to the warmer waters of southern Virginia for their release on the 21st of October!

As you may remember, Rooney, one of the first cold-stunned turtles of the 2013 year, has actually been with us since December 23, 2012.

national aquarium loggerhead

Husbandry staff and veterinarians had started treating a chronic abscess that Rooney developed with honey, but quickly realized that the abscess needed to be removed all together.  On June 27th and September 18th, a soft tissue surgeon came in to assist our veterinarians with the abscess removal.

As you can imagine, being sedated for exams and surgeries is a very different experience from what these animals encounter in the wild, so we are very anxious to get Rooney back into his natural habitat where he can swim freely and forage for his favorite foods like blue crabs and squid.  While in rehabilitation with the National Aquarium, Rooney gained 19.3 pounds, and is currently consuming a diet of blue crabs, squid, shrimp and lean fish!

Our second loggerhead, Portsmouth, was transferred to our facility in August.

national aquarium loggerhead

On August 28th, veterinary staff was assisted by a specialist for an endoscopy procedure to remove the last of two hooks he had ingested.  The hook removal was a complete success, and staff starting including more foods into Portsmouth diet, like blue crabs. While in rehabilitation, Portsmouth gained 6.6 pounds!

Husbandry staff are working with the Virginia Aquarium now to get plans for the release into place. Stay tuned for more news and photos from their release! 

national aquarium animal rescue expert

A Blue View: Why Animals Strand

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 2, 2013: Why Animals Strand

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the alarming
number of dolphins strandings observed along
the East Coast this year.

2013 has been a record-breaking year for dolphin strandings, with more than 500 dolphins stranding along the East Coast from New York to North Carolina since July 1. This number is almost 10 times the historical average for our region, and as a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared an unusual mortality event, or UME, working with partners throughout the region to respond to strandings and attempt to discover their causes.

A UME is declared when marine mammal strandings are unexpected, involve significant mortalities, and demand immediate response. Understanding and investigating marine mammal UMEs are important because they often serve as indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues. Since 1991, 60 UMEs have been declared nationally with the most common species cited as bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and manatees.

NOAA has tentatively attributed the mid-Atlantic dolphin die-off to a deadly strain of a measles-like disease, morbillivirus, based on tissue sampling. This same virus caused more than 700 dolphin deaths in 1987 and 1988, and—sadly—this current outbreak isn’t expected to fully subside until next spring.

Many marine animals, including dolphins, whales, seals, turtles, and sea lions, are known to strand. In late 2012, frigid waters off the coast of New England caused a severe cold-stun event, resulting in sea turtle strandings in record numbers. This winter was unlike any other for our partners in New England, who called in the National Aquarium and other animal rescue organizations to help with a mass stranding of more than 400 sea turtles. Over the next 6 months, more than 240 were rehabilitated and released into warmer waters.

On the West Coast this year, more than 1,000 sea lion pups washed ashore in Southern California, many starving and dehydrated. Though the cause of this mass stranding is still officially unknown, scientists believe that the young sea lions aren’t getting the food they need due to environmental factors that are limiting prey availability for pups. An investigation is ongoing.

These are just a few recent examples, and the fact is, animal strandings—of both individuals and entire populations—can occur for many reasons. Sometimes an animal is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other times, an animal gets caught in fishing gear or is struck by a fishing vessel. Or, as in the case of the dolphins this year, an illness spreads through a population.

Those who spend time at the shore have probably seen a stranded marine animal. Even still, it can be difficult for even the most savvy beach-goer to know what to do.

First, you should never approach a stranded animal. If you encounter a semi-aquatic marine mammal resting on land, such as a seal, count yourself lucky. Appreciate the animal from a safe distance of at least 4 or 5 car lengths, take plenty of pictures, and remember that these are wild animals.

How you can help: 

  • Report any aquatic animal strandings or mortalities to the local stranding response facility. In Maryland, call the Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.
  • If you can, document the event with photos or video from a safe distance!
  • While it is tempting to want to help stranded dolphins, whales and turtles by pushing them back into the water, this can actually be more harmful to the animal.
  • Make a donation to a local stranding response organization. Events like this require a lot of basic equipment, supplies and fees for processing tissue samples.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli


Sign up for AquaMail

Like us on Facebook!

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 263 other followers