National Aquarium Returns 25 Rehabilitated Sea Turtles to Ocean Home

13 Kemp's ridley and 12 green sea turtles were released in Florida by the National Aquarium

The National Aquarium returned 25 juvenile sea turtles to their ocean home at the end of February following successful rehabilitation. Each turtle stranding season, the Aquarium's volunteers and staff designate a naming convention; this year's turtles were named after popular beach destinations.

The 13 Kemp's ridley and 12 green sea turtles, released on February 22 in St. Augustine, Florida, all suffered from ailments stemming from cold stunning at the end of 2022. Fifteen of the turtles were treated by National Aquarium staff, while seven were treated by the Mystic Aquarium, and three were treated by the Virginia Aquarium. The 15 sea turtles treated by the National Aquarium arrived on November 30 in a group of 26 after stranding off the coast of Massachusetts. The turtles were treated for ailments commonly associated with cold stunning including severe pneumonia, shell, eye and skin lesions, missing limbs, gastrointestinal infections, dehydration, emaciation, blood infections and several cases of osteomyelitis.

Among the rehabilitated and released turtles was Dewey, the smallest sea turtle rehabbed at the National Aquarium, weighing in at only 2.2 lbs. This meant he was likely only 1 or 2 years old, at most. While his small size meant he might be at risk for severe pneumonia and a long recovery, Dewey bounced back quickly and showed signs of improvement right away. Dewey had a voracious appetite from day one, even to the point of stealing food from other turtles in his enclosure that were over four times his size. Dewey recovered exceptionally well, gaining an additional 2 lbs. during his rehabilitation at the National Aquarium, bringing him up to a healthy weight for his age.

"Every sea turtle patient is a unique individual, and our team is in tune with even the most minute changes in their progress during the rehabilitation process. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to be a part of their road to recovery, and we look forward every year to the moment each patient gets a clean bill of health," said rehabilitation manager Caitlin Bovery. "The joy of seeing these animals through to their return to sea instills a great sense of pride in the dedication of our team and the commitment of the Aquarium to rehabilitate these critically endangered species."

This year was the third-highest cold-stun season on record, with over 850 sea turtles stranding in the Greater Atlantic Region from Maine to Virginia. The National Aquarium admitted an increased number of green sea turtles, which presented new challenges for the teams with their variety of ailments. Unfortunately, one green sea turtle succumbed to her illness related to cold stunning due to a severe infection almost immediately after arriving at the Aquarium. While it is always difficult to lose a patient, the teams were able to learn about the presentation of those symptoms to help support other patients. The National Aquarium's Animal Health and Rescue teams are honored to support the long-term rehabilitation of these debilitated animals as they recover and make their return to sea.

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