It’s the season of giving, and the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team is doing its part to give rescued animals a warm place to recover this holiday season. With water temperatures rapidly dropping along the Atlantic coast, animal rescue programs along the East Coast are experiencing what could be one of the largest cold-stunned sea turtle stranding seasons in history. The National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team has happily opened their animal care center in Baltimore to rehabilitate endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from New England.
The turtles were originally rescued by the New England Aquarium (NEAq) as part of a large ongoing effort that started in late November. As the NEAq rescue program continues taking in cold-stunned turtles faster than their facilities can support for long-term rehabilitation, they are calling upon stranding partners in the Aquarium community for help. The National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team answered the call, and has been transporting turtles from New England to Baltimore for long-term rehabilitation.
“The New England Aquarium is experiencing a crisis situation with these mass strandings of endangered sea turtles,” commented Jen Dittmar, stranding coordinator for the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program. “With the transfer of stabilized turtles to rehabilitation facilities like ours here in Baltimore, my counterparts in New England can dedicate their time and effort to animals in critical condition. We are thrilled that we can do our part in giving these turtles a chance at survival.”
A group of five turtles were flown safely from Boston to Baltimore on December 2 as part of a Civil Air Patrol mission coordinated by Major John Henderson and carried out under the direction of pilot Walter Coats and co-pilot Arjang Doorandish. A second group of five turtles is expected to arrive to Baltimore early next week as a part of another Civil Air Patrol mission.
Weighing between two and five pounds, the turtles will most likely be in the rehabilitation at the Aquarium for the next six to eight months. National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff and volunteers are treating the sea turtles for conditions such as pneumonia, emaciation, and secondary blood infections.
Each year, many sea turtles get caught in the frigid waters of the Northeast before they have a chance to migrate and strand due to a condition known as “cold-stunning.” The condition is the sea turtle equivalent of hypothermia, and causes the turtles to become lethargic, emaciated and immune-suppressed. In the last few weeks, NEAq has responded to over 200 sea turtles and currently has close to 80 turtles in house. New York, North Carolina and Florida have also been responding to large quantities of stranded turtles.
More information on the efforts of the New England Aquarium can be found on their blog. Additional photos and updates on the National Aquarium’s turtles can be found at our blog, WATERblog.
About National Aquarium Animal Rescue:
The National Aquarium Animal Rescue program is the cornerstone of the National Aquarium’s ocean health initiative. Formed in 1991 and staffed almost entirely by volunteers, Animal Rescue's mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release stranded animals back into the natural environment whenever possible; share knowledge with the scientific community; and provide public educational programs through special events and presentations. National Aquarium Animal Rescue has successfully rescued, treated, and returned seals, dolphins, porpoises, pilot whales, pygmy sperm whales, sea turtles, and a manatee to their natural habitats.
The National Aquarium is a member of the Northeast Region of the National Stranding Network through an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff and volunteers respond to marine animal strandings 24 hours a day along the coast of Maryland, and have returned more than 80 marine animals back to their natural environment.