Animal Rescue Update: 11 Turtle Patients Ready for Release

Published March 21, 2014

by Jenn Dittmar, Manager of National Aquarium Animal Rescue

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.

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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! 

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Jenn Dittmar

Manager of National Aquarium Animal Rescue

National Aquarium - Jen Dittmar

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