Posts Tagged 'animal rescue update'

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.

DSC_2855[1]

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

An Update on Our Animal Rescue Patients

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

As you saw in last week’s update, 11 of our 19 sea turtle patients are stable and ready for release! We’re working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and officials from the state of Florida to set a release date for these animals!

In addition to our turtle patients ready for release, we do still have 8 active medical cases, and some of them have proven to be interesting challenges for our veterinary staff.

Here are updates on a few of our active cases!

Charlie

Charlie was previously diagnosed with an unknown mass near his heart. After his diagnosis, our veterinary staff prescribed an innovative treatment for Charlie – baby aspirin. He has been responding well to treatment, is eating well, and behaving normally.

national aquarium turtle charlie

A repeat echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) this week revealed that the mass is still present, though reduced in size. While Charlie is showing no clinical signs from the mass, his medical case will continue to be active until we can perform more tests to determine what the mass is, and if it is a symptom of a yet unidentified underlying issue.

Blade

Blade was admitted as a cold-stun, but also had a traumatic (possible boat strike) injury to the left side of his carapace and bottom shell that was dangerously close to penetrating through into his body cavity. The good news for Blade is that the suspected boat strike injury has completely healed, thanks to regular wound cleaning and a minor surgery.

national aquarium animal rescue blade

Unfortunately, Blade is still fighting an active infection in his right front flipper, and his condition is still critical. Blade recently underwent a CT scan, and the results indicate an active bone infection in his right shoulder. Bone infections can be difficult to treat, but our Animal Health staff have been working hard to monitor and treat the infection appropriately. Yesterday, Blade underwent additional x-rays, blood work, and a sedated procedure to extract some infected cells so we can identify whether the infection is bacterial or fungal.

Our staff are keeping Blade as comfortable as possible, and doing everything they can to help him fight the infection.

Stay tuned for more updates on our sea turtle patients and be sure to follow me on Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at our rehab efforts! 

Animal Rescue Expert

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! 

Animal Rescue Update: Harp Seal on Maryland Coast

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue team has been busy lately – besides caring for the 19 sea turtles we currently have in rehabilitation, we have been actively responding to seal sightings all along the Maryland coast. So far this season, we have seen mostly harbor seals visiting the area, but on Saturday, February 8, we had our first confirmed juvenile harp seal sighting of the season at the inlet of Ocean City, MD.

harp seal in ocean city

National Aquarium’s trained first-responders, along with seal steward volunteers from Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), monitored the condition of the animal, established a ‘safe viewing zone’ for the public and answered questions. Within 48 hours, volunteers with the Aquarium and MCBP interacted with nearly 600 people that stopped by to see and take pictures of the seal from the established safe zone. This harp seal was active, displaying normal seal behaviors and was in good body condition. A volunteer who was monitoring the animal witnessed the seal leaving the beach the afternoon of Monday, February 10.

Early on the morning of February 12th, our Animal Rescue team received a report from a private citizen about a seal sighting at Assateague Island National Seashore.

map of maryland shore

An Aquarium staff member responded to assess the health and condition of the animal, and it was quickly clear that this juvenile harp seal was not feeling well and in need of medical attention. Within two hours of the initial report of the sighting, Aquarium staff (with the help of the National Park Service) successfully determined the condition of the animal, secured a rehabilitation enclosure at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey, and began the transport process. Based on the condition of the animal, both teams surmised that this was a different seal than the individual that was sighted just days before in Ocean City.

Based on the symptoms (lethargy, depressed behavior, resting position) of the Assateague seal, it was suspected that the animal could have ingested sand, shells and possibly rocks – a behavior of harp seals that is well documented in scientific literature and an experience we have seen in admitted harp seal patients. It is unclear as to why juvenile harp seals ingest sand, rocks and shells, but they are the most common seal species to display this abnormal behavior. This ailment can cause impaction of the stomach and severe dehydration – conditions that can prove fatal, even if treated promptly.

stones from seal surgery

In 2004, our Animal Health team removed more than 1 lb. of rocks
from the stomach of a juvenile harp seal.

Despite the best efforts to treat the young harp seal found on Assateague, the animal’s condition deteriorated quickly and, unfortunately, it expired. After further evaluation, our teams were able to carefully compare photos of the harp seal from Ocean City on Feb 8 and the harp seal from Assateague on Feb 12. We have confirmed that it was the same seal at both locations.

We were initially shocked at this finding, as the seal’s health had greatly declined in a short amount of time. It is always difficult to accept when wildlife rehabilitation cases do not have a successful outcome, but it’s a vivid reality of the profession.

Wild animals are extremely adept at masking their illnesses in an effort to decrease their chances of becoming easy targets for prey, and can often times be much sicker than they outwardly appear. While it doesn’t happen often, we have experienced several situations in the last 22 years where seals quickly collapse from conditions such as respiratory distress, intestinal perforations and sepsis. While these cases can be difficult for staff, we use every opportunity to learn as much as we can from these animals – for the sake of the individual animal and the population as a whole.

In an effort to help us monitor seals in Maryland, please report any seal sightings to the Natural Resources Police Hotline at 1-800-628-9944 or Maryland Coastal Bays Program website.

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

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


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