11/26/14

2014 Turtles: Unprecedented Transport

Since we are in the midst of an unprecedented sea turtle stranding season, we rely on partners to help with the long rehabilitation phase in the recovery of cold-stunned sea turtles. Once we stabilize their health here in Quincy, many turtles are carefully transported to other rescue facilities up and down the East Coast for rehab—a long process that can take months.

Most of the turtles transported to other facilities were small Kemp's ridleys, anywhere from 3 to 10 pounds.

Yesterday was an epic day for sea turtle transports—fitting for an epic stranding season. Before dawn, 193 critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles loaded into padded boxes and transported by a Coast Guard plane to Orlando, where they were distributed to seven marine animal rehab facilities in north and central Florida. At mid-morning, a private jet flew 50 Kemp’s and green sea turtles to North Carolina for distribution to the aquariums there.

Here's just a sampling of what this busy day looked like.

This is what it looked like before the transport: Boxes along a wall staged and waiting for the early morning transport team to begin removing turtles from the tanks for the big US Coast Guard transport.

Volunteers began removing turtles to prepare them for the USCG transport at 4:00 am!

Boxes with turtles carefully tucked in for the transport are lined up with their paperwork,
ready to be loaded into a waiting transport trailer.

IFAW came and picked us up in their heated animal transport trailer and sent people to help us load the plane.

Loading the IFAW trailer was a team effort, many volunteers pitched in to carry turtles.

Unloading the trailer and loading the planes | Photo: S. Heaslip for Cape Cod Times via Twitter

A turtle gets ready to head south | Photo: S. Heaslip for Cape Cod Times via Twitter

The turtles arrived at rescue facilities in Florida to begin the long phase of rehabilitation before
release into the wild | Photo: Bob Shackelford with WSTP via Twitter

You can help, too. If you see a stranded turtle, please cover it with a layer of seaweed, mark it and call Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay at 508-349-2615. These are endangered turtles so every one you save counts a lot! Another way to help is by supporting the Aquarium and our rescue efforts. Thank you.

11/25/14

2014 Turtles: Partners in Rescue

We are in the midst of an unprecedented sea turtle stranding season right now. We've treated more than 400 turtles so far this year, that's double previous records.

A green sea turtle during its intake exam at the Aquarium's Animal Care Facility

But we couldn't help so many turtles without a strong network of support. First, our partners at Mass. Audubon at Wellfleet Bay organize volunteers to walk beaches in search of turtles, then triages the turtles plucked from the beaches. They also coordinate transport from Cape Cod to our facility in Quincy, Mass. This year in particular, it's been a massive undertaking.

Here's a quick video detailing that journey.



The US Coast Guard pitched in big time with a massive transport of endangered sea turtles this morning. After their health was stabilized here at our facility, 193 endangered turtles traveled south from the Coast Guard Air Station on Cape Cod to continue their rehabilitation at Florida rescue facilities. (Read the media release for more information.)

Volunteers hold turtles safely while rescuers examine turtles, deliver fluids and medicines and draw blood for testing. 

Meanwhile, around 150 turtles remain at our facility for treatment and more are washing up on Cape Cod beaches every day. With the help of volunteers, interns and staff working unbelievably long days, we're going to do what we do—treat endangered sea turtles and get them healthy enough for release back into the ocean.

Preparing syringes for medical exams

An Aquarium vet examines radiograph after radiograph, looking for illnesses like pneumonia

Volunteers pitch in with a dopler to record heartbeats in recently arrived sea turtles 

All new arrivals must take a supervised swim. That swim happens in an air-conditioned holding room.
The sea turtles arrive with temperatures in the 50s and it's important not to raise their temperatures too quickly. 

You can help, too. If you see a stranded turtle, please cover it with a layer of seaweed, mark it and call Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay at 508-349-2615. These are endangered turtles so every one you save counts a lot! Another way to help is by supporting the Aquarium and our rescue efforts. Thank you.

11/20/14

2014 Turtles: In the trenches

It's looking to be another busy sea turtle season. We'll be posting updates and snapshots of the action here on this blog. This post is an overview of what happens during these early days of a very busy time for us.

After a busy weekend of sea turtle strandings, the number of sea turtles arriving for care is not letting up. More than 40 turtles arrived at our doorstep on Wednesday. That's roughly equal to the number of turtles that arrived over the whole weekend!

A patient sitting on its towel donut for an intake exam

So our long days are consumed with treating the turtles that have arrived in the past couple weeks (that's a whole day right there), plus doing intake exams on all the new patients that arrived that day, coordinating transportation for turtles that will complete their rehabilitation at another facility (we need to make room for more turtles!), coordinating volunteers to help us during all these exams and transports. Oh, and paperwork, of course! Each turtle has a detailed chart of its health, bloodwork, treatments and swim time. Most of us don't go home until well after 10 pm.  

Mass Audubon documents and triages each turtle found on the beaches, and they find drivers to bring the
turtles to the Aquarium's sea turtle hospital in Quincy | Photo: Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay via Facebook

Our rescue partners at Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay are just as busy! They have the tremendous task of coordinating volunteers to walk the beaches. Any turtles found are brought into the facility, triaged and then they coordinate volunteers to drive the turtles more than two hours to our facility in Quincy. With dozens and dozens of turtles being found on Cape Cod beaches, that can mean several trips a day! Without their end of this rescue mission, there would be no turtles to save.

Huge numbers of sea turtles continue to wash up on Cape Cod beaches. Here's a scene from Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay
Photo: Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times via Twitter 

Buckle up! In the weeks and months ahead, we'll provide more information about the work that goes into treating these turtles so they're healthy enough to be released back into the ocean. It looks like it'll be a long haul, but we are ready for the challenge! It's a privilege to be able to care for these special animals in need in the hopes that we can help these endangered species in the wild.

If you see a stranded turtle, please cover it with a layer of seaweed, mark it and call Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay at 508-349-2615. These are endangered turtles so every one you save counts a lot! Another way to help is by supporting the Aquarium and our rescue efforts. Thank you.

11/10/14

2014 Turtles: So It Begins!

So it begins. Our 2014 Cape Cod Bay cold-stun season appears to be starting with a bang! In the past two days we have admitted nine live Kemp's ridley sea turtles which brings our total to eleven turtles in house. Read the recent media release announcing the start of the 2014 cold-stun season.

NEST-14-011-Lk Entrance Photo

Here is an update on the four brought up yesterday and the two that came in earlier last week.

NEST -14-009-Lk

NEST -14-009-Lk

NEST -14-009-Lk

The above series of photos is NEST -14-009-Lk. (Quick side note, none of the turtles have been named yet. Since these turtles are in such critical condition when they arrive we want to ensure the turtle's survival. We also like to allow the team that intakes the turtle the chance to name it.) As you can see in the last photo of 009, this turtle has a laceration to the right front flipper. It also has a fracture to the carapace and the plastron. Hard to say for sure what may have caused such injuries.

NEST-14-010-Lk 

Checking mouth for sand and debris on NEST-14–010-Lk

Above, NEST-14-010-Lk gets its intake. We look inside the mouth to make sure it is free of sand, debris, and foreign objects such as hooks and line.

A couple of intake photos of NEST-14-011-Lk.

Intake photos of NEST-14-011-Lk.


NEST-14-012-Lk 

NEST-14-012-Lk with a bruised plastron

Above NEST-14-012-Lk with a bruised plastron. This is one of the common ailments we see on our ridleys.

NEST-14-006-Lk

NEST-14-006-Lk

The turtle above came from Martha's Vineyard. NEST-14-006-Lk is already swimming in a big tank and doing well. Has shown interest in food but is not eating yet.

NEST-14-007-Lk

NEST-14-007-Lk

NEST-14-007-Lk, one of our smallest admits yet. Weighing in at a mere 1.3kg. Its also in the big tank swimming around with 006. But, this little critter is already eating!

Below, are some photos of the turtle season thus far. 

006 and 007 are being monitored during their swim. In the first few days of rehab the turtles are watched closely to make sure they are strong enough to stay swimming in the small pools.

006 is being gently placed in the large pool by our intern Sydney. Good work 006!

Once swimming consecutively for at least 24hrs the turtles are offered small bits of herring and squid. 

Although 006 bit at some food the turtle never ate it. Not to worry, it sometimes can take several days to get a turtle to eat.

When the turtles first arrive they are given subcutaneous fluid depending on what their bloodwork shows.

010, 011 and 012 all swimming in the small pools at 65˚F today.

009 swimming in a small pool at 65˚F today.

Here's looking at a possible big season. Stay tuned...

— Adam

11/1/14

2014 turtle season is about to begin!

Turtle season is finally getting under way! As the temperatures get colder, and the seas become hospitable, sea turtles begin stranding on the beaches of Cape Cod. Here, in the Sea Turtle Hospital at the New England Aquarium, we are ready and waiting.  We have spent the past few months gearing up, cleaning, restocking medical supplies and sprucing up our facility.

In early August we released our final turtles, with one exception, a Ridley named Golden Crisp. With  one turtle left in house we, the volunteers, had plenty of time to help the staff make improvements to our facility. Since that time, we built a new filter system for one of our tanks, created new tank dividers, drained and scrubbed all swim tanks, and freshly painted the deck. While we were busy working on the facility, we were surprised by a few early visitors.  A juvenile Kemp’s ridley and a robust, young, loggerhead arrived at our facility in the middle of September. These turtles were not cold-stunned, and presented with other health issues. They received first rate medical and husbandry care over the course of a few weeks until they were cleared for release by our veterinary staff. 

Early season turtles, this is the Kemp's ridley

Above is the loggerhead.

Just two weeks ago, they were transferred to the National Aquarium of Baltimore, along with Golden Crisp, for release back into the ocean.

As the anticipation builds for this season, anyone who knows our turtle rescue program asks the same question...they all want to know what the turtle naming theme is for 2014. Interestingly enough we just found out ourselves, but we aren't ready to tell the secret yet. We reached out to our sea turtle partners at the Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (Mass Audubon) and asked them to decide the naming theme this year.  In case there are newcomers to this blog, Mass Audubon is in charge of all sea turtle beach rescues in southeast Massachusetts. 

This is a crucial role in the sea turtle effort in Massachusetts. Audubon Staff and volunteers walk the beaches day and night at each high tide searching for and rescuing the turtles from the beach. They also manage all the turtle transports from the Cape to our facility, often managing/scheduling two transports a day in the busiest part of the season. We will share the naming theme in the next blog when we introduce the first cold stunned sea turtle of 2014....stay tuned!

Volunteers take a breather after working on one of the turtle pools... before it gets filled with water for the season.
The new sturdy dividers are ready for the turtles!
Initial swim pools for when the turtles first arrive.

Please visit previous Rescue blog posts to view photos from last season’s releases and the highlights from the 2013 turtle stranding season.

And… Stay tuned for updates as the 2014 season progresses!

Mass Audubon and NEAq volunteers, staff and family celebrate another successful season after a summer turtle release on Cape Cod.
This post was created by our guest bloggers, NEAQ Rescue and Rehab Team Volunteers!

10/31/14

This is why we do it.

To get everyone ready for the upcoming cold-stun season I wanted to share with you some exciting news.

"Head Wound Harry" one of our 1999 Kemp's ridley sea turtles.

One of our 1999 Kemp's ridley sea turtles nested in Texas and is the mother of 103 baby turtles!

She was a patient from our previous record year (1999) of cold-stunned sea turtles. She arrived at the NEAq with a heavy epibiont load. After removing some of this load from her face, biologists discovered a head fracture and carapace wound.  Due to the extensive head injury, the turtle was given the nickname “Head Wound Harry”, now revised to “Harriet” for obvious reasons.

Due to the nature of the head wound, several diagnostics or procedures were run on Harriet.  This was the first time some of the procedures had been done on a rescued sea turtle at NEAq.

MRI

MRI

Since this turtle had a traumatic injury to the head. We wanted to make sure that the skull was healed prior to release. Sea turtles are exposed to high pressures while diving any defect could have posed a threat to its survival in the wild.

Light therapy

This was one of the first turtles at the Aquarium to receive light therapy treatment. This type of treatment was a precursor to today's laser therapy.

A bone scan

Both the above treatments were done due to suspected osteomyelitis (bone infection). The light therapy is used to draw blood into the affected region. Using a tracer radioisotope doctors can see the perfusion of blood into the bones. They can then determine where possible infections, cancers, even arthritis is occurring.

One procedure that you have heard about before is PIT tagging. This is how we were able to confirm that the nesting turtle on Padre Island was our "Harry/Harriet".

You can see the PIT tag for "Harry" in the left front flipper of this X-ray. This is how nest patrollers on the beach were able to determine this turtle was one of our rehab patients.

Interestingly, the PIT tag for this turtle helped shape policies for PIT tag placement on sea turtles in the U.S. A paper published in 2010 on PIT tag migration featured a series of radiographs specifically from this turtle. For those of you that are interested you can find the full article here.

A few more images of the turtle below. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any intake photos. Digital photography was only in its infancy then...







This is a corresponding fracture on the right side of the turtle's shell. It lined up nicely with the head trauma which, made us believe this wound was a propeller strike.



This turtle spent almost two years at the New England Aquarium for its rehabilitation. In order to make room for new admissions we had to send "Harry/Harriet" to Columbus Zoo in Ohio to complete her rehab. She actually flew in the passenger area of a large commercial airplane accompanied by a staff member. There she spent another two years before being transferred to the Virginia Aquarium for subsequent release in 2003.

She then spent 6 years out in the open ocean, until finally, in 2009 she crept back up from the sea to lay two nests. One nest was on North Padre Island Texas where she had 64 hatchlings survive. Folks at the Padre Island National Seashore made the survival and protection of this nest possible.  The other nest was on South Padre Island Texas where the folks at Sea Turtle Inc. incubated the clutch and had 39 hatchlings survive.


Not Harry's but these are two Kemp's ridley hatchlings from Padre Island Texas. Photo: NPS photo

Hopefully this is just the first of many more nesting turtles we find out about. When we do hear about them we will keep you posted!

Thanks to those folks that took photos back in 99-01 and sent them to me. Specifically- Melissa Hoge, Kristen Dube, Alexandra Daniello, and Terry Rogers.

— Adam