2014 Turtles: The Glorious Finale

We made it to Georgia with our precious cargo, and as many as 400 or 500 people were lining the beach to watch these endangered sea turtles return to the ocean. Not surprisingly, there was great excitement and energy on the beach—a sunny culmination to all those months of rehabilitation during the cold and snowy winter in New England.

Parading the turtles so visitors can get a close-up look at these amazing animals

Dr. Norton and Michelle Kaylor of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center lead a parade of turtle carriers to the beach. The turtle handlers let visitors get a good look at the turtles, mostly Kemp's ridley and one green sea turtle.

Poised and ready

When it was time for the actual release, Dr. Norton counted down from ten for the turtle handlers to walk the turtles into the water. His counting was quickly overtaken by the 500 or so voices yelling out the count.  What a wonderful send-off for our patients!

A little thank you to the generous pilots that helped so many of our turtle patients travel to special rehabilitation
turtle hospitals during the thick of stranding season last fall. We could not have saved so many turtles without
the help of our partners!

In total 15 Kemp's ridley turtles from the New England Aquarium and one green turtle from the Georgia sea turtle center were released during this joint event. Other turtles were released later.

And they're off!

Good luck, turtles!

This video from the GA Sea Turtle Center's Facebook page has a cool aerial perspective of the event. Local and regional media was also on hand to film the release.

We managed to gather Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff and volunteers, New England Aquarium staff and vols and some Jekyll Island Authority staff who helped us with this event for one last picture. It's always inspiring to see so many people passionate about saving sea turtles.

2014 Turtles: The Trek Begins

After an epic sea turtle stranding season, most of our last few patients are ready to go home. The team packed up 24 turtles on Friday and drove them in style all the way to the warm beaches of Jekyll Island in Georgia. Here are a couple shots of the rescuers removing turtles from the pools at our Animal Care Center in Quincy on Friday.

Ready to go back to the ocean

Each turtle is given a check up before the trip

The turtles are slathered in an ointment to keep their skin moist while they're out of the water.
Each one is nestled into its own comfy box for the trip south.

See pictures of the inspiring release here!


2014 Turtles: To be Released this Weekend

In the next few days we will be releasing 24 turtles off the coast of Georgia this weekend.

Meet some of the lucky ones.

Great Horned Owl:

Above photos: These were taken about two weeks after the turtle was admitted. You can see the dead skin on the the head and flippers.

Above: Most of the skin has healed. Still a small granulated bit on the turtles rostrum. But, this turtle is ready to go back to the ocean!

Another turtle ready to go is Great Black Backed Gull:

 On the left is the intake pictures for the turtle. The right side is the turtle's release photos. Notice the turtle's shoulder and inguinal areas. This turtle has gained a good amount of weight.

We also have Great Blue Heron on the release list. The smallest turtle for this release.


You can really see the dramatic difference six months of rehabilitation has had on this turtle.

All of these turtles will be released this weekend. Stay tuned for release photos!



2014 Turtles: Six Months Later...

As the Rescue department gears up for bringing turtles south for release. I thought it would be interesting to show you some photos from the record smashing event and compare them to what it looks like in the hospital area today.


Above, our hallways lined with banana boxes of turtles. The picture on the left shows when the animals are being triaged after arriving from the Massachusetts Audubon at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The picture on the right shows the turtles lined up getting ready for a transport to another facility for continuation of care.

Today the hallways are clear of turtles.
Life in the rehab area has resumed its normal operations.

The above pictures give a rare peak at what it looks like when over 300 turtles are in the facility at one time. 
Normally (as seen here), we try to keep our turtle lanes to under six animals at any given time.

During the warming up process the turtles graduate through various phases of temperature controlled swimming. In the following pictures two of our patient overflow tanks are full of recovering turtles.

Turtles transitioning 

These systems are still in use but after the upcoming release they will be empty again.

Below: same systems as above. To the left is during the event. To the right is today.

Within the next few months hopefully all of our turtles will be released. The tanks will be emptied, cleaned and scrubbed. As we anticipate the next batch of cold-stunned sea turtles that will be needing rescue and rehabilitation come the fall.



Going bananas: Transporting turtles in style

A recent story about the colossal 2014 turtle season in blue, our members' magazine, mentioned that the Rescue Team uses banana boxes to transport their sea turtle patients. There wasn't space in the article to go into the back story of the boxes, but we wanted to offer some additional information to our blog readers.

Turtles in transport

When the turtles arrive, they are queued up
with their medical records. The window on the top of the box makes it easy to
ID the number on the shell of the turtle inside.

Turtles ready for the next leg of their journey

Our rescue partners at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay sanctuary are the ones who got us hooked on the banana boxes. They usually start stockpiling the boxes early in the fall so they have enough to transport each turtle to the Animal Care Center. This was the first year we helped acquire boxes since stores on the Cape were out because of the staggering number of stranded turtles.

Banana boxes stored and ready for transport.

There are several types of banana boxes but we primarily use Chiquita. Prior to transporting the turtles via plane, we provide the box measurements to the pilots. So that we know how many boxes will fit in the various planes that we use to transport turtles to rehab facilities up and down the East Coast. This year we ran into a problem with some other types of banana boxes getting in the mix. The measurements of the other brands' boxes were not quite the same as the Chiquita boxes.

A turtle loaded and secured onto a plane for transport. Photo: Cape Cod Times

When we pack up the turtles for transport, we make the banana boxes very cozy and safe. We put a liner in the box and provide a towel for padding. When appropriate, we also add heat packs approved for animal transports to the tops of the boxes and cover the heat packs with cotton towels to keep the warmth in.  It is important to note that the heat packs are secured to the top of the box so the turtle never comes in contact with the heat source. Our rehabbed turtles travel in style!

blue magazine is a quarterly publication distributed to our members. Readers get tidbits about what's happening around the building as well as stories about our conservation and research efforts around the world. Sound interesting? Consider becoming a member! Not only will you start receiving blue, but you'll enjoy express visits to the Aquarium, discounts around Central Wharf and the satisfaction of supporting the Aquarium conservation and research efforts.


2014 Turtles: Last turtle of the season?

This was an Aquarium media release distributed on December 30, 2014. 

In an already record setting year for cold-stunned sea turtles on Cape Cod, a 65-pound brown-shelled sea turtle emerged from the frigid surf of Great Island in Wellfleet Monday afternoon, just two days before New Year’s. Many New Englanders might be skeptical that sea turtles could be found in the region’s cold temperate waters even during the summer, much less than in the full blown grip of official winter! Two weeks had passed since the last live sea turtle had been found, and unofficially most everyone involved in this year’s tremendous six week long rescue effort was probably secretly grateful that it appeared over.

Over the next fortnight, beach walkers occasionally found the carcasses of long dead sea turtles that were collected for later necropsy. Then four days after Christmas, the rescue staff of the Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary received word that a good-sized loggerhead had come ashore. The logical assumption was that this would be a body retrieval for later necropsy, but reports were that the animal was moving!

Officially on well-earned time off, Mass Audubon staff responded to find a large, live loggerhead that was somewhat active. They quickly found a volunteer to drive the severely hypothermic marine reptile 90 miles to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA. Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Kathy Tuxbury, found the turtle alive but extremely lethargic with a 44.9 degree body temperature and requiring respiratory aid. After blood work, she administered some life-saving drugs to the underweight but not emaciated turtle. The animal was quickly responsive to a variety of treatments. As of late Tuesday, the body temperature was steadily rebounding, and it was swimming for extended periods of time. The prognosis remains guarded, but nearly all signs are trending positively.

Christmas miracle, plucky survivor against all odds or just the last turtle standing after an out-of-control summerlong crab feast, this now lively loggerhead had his 15 minutes of media time on New Year’s Eve. This yet to be named sea turtle is the 746th one admitted to the Aquarium’s animal care center this year. In an average year over the past decade, 90 hypothermic sea turtles are usually treated.

As 2014 closes, the New England Aquarium would like to thank all of those who this past November and December helped to save hundreds of the world’s most endangered sea turtles. That includes our amazing, long term partner Mass Audubon, the hundreds of local volunteers who walked beaches or helped in our sea turtle hospital, the Coast Guard and the private pilots who airlifted turtles,  NOAA– the federal oceans agency—and the dozens of marine animal rehab facilities in 16 states that either took re-warmed and stabilized sea turtles or sent professional staff to help care for all of the hypothermic sea turtles in this record smashing year. Our last loggerhead is also grateful as it welcomed in a new year.


2014 Turtles: In the National News

Our local sea turtle stranding tidalwave continues to pique the interest of folks around the country.

A rescued sea turtle awaits its entrance exam
Here are a couple national news stories that you may have missed.
In these news stories, you'll find a lot of interesting information about the rescue efforts that take place down on Cape Cod, before the turtles even arrive at our facility. Beach walkers and triage by Mass Audubon is a critical step in the journey to recovery for these rescued sea turtles.

Some turtles have completed that journey and have returned to warm Florida waters. Safe travels, turtles!

Thanks to Jenn Dittmar at National Aquarium for sharing this picture via Twitter.


2014 Turtles: Early Morning Transport

As of mid-December, more than 700 turtles have been treated at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy. In order to make room for new patients, we've had to transport turtles to many facilities up and down the East Coast and Gulf Coast.

This morning, we had a crew of dedicated staff and volunteers on the scene well before the sun came up. Each turtle needs to be gentle scooped up from their holding pen, given a quick checkup and then tucked into their transport banana box. Here's a look.

83 turtles headed south to Gulfport, Mississippi for the long months of rehabilitation ahead. That's thanks to another tremendous transport by the U.S. Coast Guard. Meanwhile, there are still more than 70 in the pens and pools at our facility.

Stay tuned for more about the care that goes into nursing these animals back to health.

Catch up on some recent turtle news:


2014 Turtles: It's all about team work!

You might have wondered... With nearly 750 sick sea turtles admitted to our Quincy Animal Care Center since mid November, how are we able to function and provide care to these animals?

Well, here is your answer... Team work!

NEAQ staff and interns working side by side with our colleagues from Virginia Aquarium visiting to help treat endangered sea turtles .
We have discussed many times before the importance of our partners at Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary - it is thanks to their staff and volunteers who walk countless beaches at all hours of the day and night, in all weather conditions, that these turtles were rescued, recovered, triaged and transported to the NEAQ. Our rescue volunteers and interns have also worked tirelessly for the past four weeks, giving us any free hour they have and often working very long days.

In this post we would like to introduce you to our partners and colleagues from other stranding network organizations who are supporting us through this event by providing their staff, interns, volunteers and other resources such as transport vehicles. 

IFAW staff member working with Katie Pugliares, NEAQ rescue staff, on a Kemp's ridley sea turtle. Our colleague from the marine mammal department who was helping us out that day is looking at the master turtle board locating the next turtle scheduled for treatment. 
There is not a single Rescue Department staff in the picture above! The few people in green scrubs are NEAQ rescue volunteers and interns, while everyone else is representing another departments or organizatios: NH Seacoast Science Center, IFAW, and NEAQ marine mammal and education departments. 
Our colleagues from the National Aquarium in Baltimore as well as another Virginia Aquarium staff member were helping with treatments and feedings of sea turtles all of last week.
Our volunteers and interns also work as a team most of the time...
... although sometimes their team is a number of newly admitted sea turtles...
... or a stack of empty banana boxes readied for an upcoming transport.
NOAA Fisheries provided their staff and a vehicle to transport numerous sea turtles to  other facilities as well to local airports where the animals were flying from to secondary facilities down south.

While our team is treating, swimming, and feeding the sea turtles, the staff at the Animal Health Department is tirelessly processing and analyzing the blood samples, taking x-ray pictures of our patients and then reading and interpreting the results to come up with best treatment plans.

Sarah Hough and Deana Edmunds from AHD working on blood processing and analyzing

Sarah positioning a Kemp's ridley sea turtle on an x-ray plate for radiographs

After the x-ray pictures are downloaded to the computer it is necessary to check if they came out okay before sending the patient back to its rehabilitation pool. 
It is thanks to this amazing team of caring individuals that we were able to provide care to nearly 750 endangered sea turtles that came through our door and transport hundreds of them to secondary facilities up and down the east coast for long term rehabilitation. It is also thanks to this team that we are able to see results like the one below:

X-ray pictures of sea turtle NEST-14-500-Lk. The picture on the left was taken just a few days after the animal was admitted  to NEAQ and shows severe pneumonia - the area affected looks like a "bubble wrap" and some of it is pointed with arrows. The picture on the right is the same turtle after undergoing two weeks of rehabilitation and antibiotic therapy - the "bubble wrap" like area is almost non existing indicating recession of pneumonia!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our rescue volunteers and interns, Mass Adudubon at Wellfleet Bay staff and volunteers, NEAq Animal Health department staff, other NEAQ departments who sent staff to help, as well as our colleagues from stranding network organizations and other institutions: International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Seacoast Science Center (SSC), National Marine Life Center (NMLC), Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, and MSPCA Nevins Farm staff and volunteers.

A sincere THANK YOU to those mentioned above and the countless volunteers making the care of these endangered turtles possible. 

 - Julika