4/6/16

2015 Turtles: Video from Turtle Trek Release

We shared some heartwarming still pictures of the sea turtle release in Florida earlier this week. See those pictures here and here. And here's one last look at the peaceful moment when these endangered animals swam off into the sunrise.


This is what it's all about.

Thank you to all the volunteers and hard-working staff on the Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team, and thanks to all our partners in rescue up and down the East Coast, working to save these amazing species of sea turtle.

4/4/16

2015 Turtles: Turtle trek to Florida (Part 2)

See Part 1 of this turtle trek, preparations for an epic road trip!

While Bostonians were shrugging snow off their shoulders on Monday, the turtle rescue team was curling their toes in Florida sands as their flippered patients shambled toward the ocean. Today marked a milestone in the second largest turtle rescue season on record at the New England Aquarium. With the exception of a few of the sickest patients, the last of our patients from 2015 have returned to the ocean!

Sea turtles head home.
Here are a few scenes from this morning's rescue in Florida.

Turtles in the banana boxes ready for release
A park ranger and Aquarium rescuer release a turtle together. 
And they're off!
This is what it's all about!
After the road trip, Julika prepares to release a turtle.

Ranger Alison Conboy releases a turtle
Kemp's ridley turtles heading down the beach
A hybrid turtle heads towards the water
A Kemp's ridley turtle going home
A Kemp's ridley turtle swims deeper
Swimming off into the sunrise
Success!

4/3/16

2015 Turtles: Turtle Trek (Part 1)

On Saturday, members of the Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team awoke early and prepared more than a dozen turtles for an epic road trip down the East Coast from Quincy, MA, to warmer waters down south. These sea turtles were among the very last patients from our second busiest turtle rescue season. And they were on their way home.

Here are a couple scenes from that early morning send-off.

Volunteers scoop turtles from their rehab pens for their last exams.

Each turtle is given a last dose of fluids and layer
of ointment to keep their skin moist while out of the water.


Then the turtles are nestled into banana boxes for the journey.

Each banana box has a comfy, clean towel lining the bottom.

Turtles lined up and ready to go.

Shipping out!

Precious cargo

Safe travels, little one!


1/5/16

2015 Turtles: With the Loggerheads Come New Records

Nine more turtles are on their way to the Animal Care Center today—including eight of the larger loggerheads. The season continues to break records with latest live admissions of Kemp's ridley and loggerhead turtles. Not only is the timing of this season unusual, this is our second-largest stranding season ever.

In a normal sea turtle stranding season, the last surviving animal washes up during the week before Christmas. Over 25 years, no more than a handful have arrived after New Year’s. But as an article in today's Boston Globe reports, turtles are still stranding on the Cape.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi, The Boston Globe

Since last Friday, our sea turtle hospital in Quincy has admitted 13 loggerheads and four Kemp’s – probably two to three times more than all previous post-New Year’s turtles combined. The loggerhead arrivals are the beginning of the end of the stranding season, but they pose major logistics challenges as each animal takes up so much tank space.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi, The Boston Globe

The very late season is the product of the abnormally high water temperatures in Cape Cod Bay that were 6-7 degrees above normal for most of the month of December.

Read the full article in The Boston Globe.

1/2/16

2015 Turtles: Tools of the Trade

To date, nearly 300 sea turtles that have washed up on the beaches of Cape Cod Bay have been admitted to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital since early November, making it our second-largest stranding season ever. 

On top of planning transports, doing laundry and arranging for volunteers, stranding season is a blur of sea turtle exams. For such an important part of every day, turtle exams can happen in a humble little work space. We have a clinic room with permanent exam carts. 

Two carts in the clinic are set up for turtle exams.
But when things get busy, we set up additional carts throughout the turtle hospital. But each station is equipped with an array of tools necessary for treating the turtles. Let's a moment to walk through the tools of the trade for all these sea turtle exams.

Here's an example of a work station ready for a new patient

OK, so what are all these items on the towel and what are they used for?

Flashlight: This helps the biologists examine a turtle's eyes and throats for scratches or foreign bodies.

Turtles often get injections of medicines and fluids as well as blood drawn for testing. Before the injections, the turtle's skin
is cleaned with alcohol and iodine—just like what you'd use on people! 

The marker: These are used to mark the turtle's shells with a number ID, this is important when looking for dozens of turtles swimming in a rehab tank. The tongue depressor: These simple tools can help spread ointments over the turtle's shell or skin or gently scrape a little algae off the shell. 

The towel donut! These are a staple at every sea turtle rescue station. A rolled up towel like this is a comfortable place for turtles to rest during their exam. It's soft, their flipper can hang over the sides and assistants can gently yet firmly grip the sides the turtle's shell so they don't flap themselves right off the table.

Each syringe used for a blood draw is prepared with a chemical coating that prevents the blood
from coagulating inside the tube. The biologists prepare many syringes at a time and
stash them at each exam station. 

A tool caddy contains all the extras. Extra antiseptic wipes, extra depressors,
extra syringes, extra tubing, scissors, pens, markers, etc. Also note that there's some
note-taking in this picture. Every shot and abrasion is noted along with temperatures and
energy level and lots more.

Turtle exams in action!

There are also some techy tools that are used during exams, more on those later. While the tools of the trade aren't the most exciting part of saving sea turtles, they're crucial. And so are all those hard-working individuals rehabilitating so many turtles!

12/30/15

2015 Turtles: 50 Turtles Head South

This post is adapted from a media release that appeared on the News Blog. To date, 287 sea turtles that have washed up on the beaches of Cape Cod Bay have been admitted to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital since early November. Today, 50 turtles were transported south.

A Kemp's ridley sea turtle in treatment at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy

Yesterday, our first wintery storm delayed the flight of fifty endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles from the our sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA, to a turtle rehab facility in Florida.

Boxing up turtles for transport to warmer climes
(Photo via Karen Twomey via Twitter @KarenWBZRadio)
But the three- to ten-pound, black-shelled, juveniles eventually shipped out from Hanscomb Airport in Bedford, MA, today. Their five-hour flight to Panama City, Florida, will bring them to Gulf World, a marine park that has been a crucial partner of ours, finishing the rehab of a large number of cold-stunned sea turtles over the past two record-setting years.

The flight has been arranged by NOAA and will be operated by PlaneSense,
a private aviation company located in Portsmouth, N.H.  

Many thanks to PlaneSense for operating this flight and donating part of the cost of the trip. We are also incredibly grateful to a generous, anonymous benefactor from New York, who is covering the remainder of the cost of the trip.

The turtles all safely stowed in their banana boxes for transport

This autumn’s sea turtle stranding season is the second largest in the quarter century partnership between the New England Aquarium and the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Our hospital is over capacity. Transferring these rewarmed and medically stable turtles to other rehab facilities in the South and along the East Coast will make room for any more turtles that may strand.

We could not save so many turtles with the help of rescue partners
in Wellfleet and throughout the country.

In a normal weather year, the sea turtle stranding season would already be over as they rarely survive the water temperatures in the low 40’s, which is typical. But Cape Cod Bay has been exceptionally warm for most of December with water temperatures in the high 40’s.

The loggerhead rescued by volunteers at Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay
(Photo via Mass Audubon's Facebook page)

The last surviving turtles of the season are almost always large, adolescent loggerhead sea turtles weighing 25 to 75 pounds. So far this season, only one has been admitted leaving the truly strange prospect of tropical sea turtles stranding in New England well into January.

12/28/15

2015 Turtles: In the News

Our rescuers are working hard to keep up with turtle exams, transports, feedings and more. This is now our second largest stranding season, with well over 200 turtles brought to our Animal Care Center in Quincy. We'll share news and tidbits when we can. Stay tuned.

With the unseasonably warm weather we had been getting so far this year, CBS Evening News followed up on the unusual sea turtle rescue season. The package featured video from our sea turtle hospital and sound from our very own Connie Merigo.

Watch it here.


12/26/15

2015 Turtles: A very unusual patient

Our rescuers are working hard to keep up with turtle exams, transports, feedings and more. This is already our third largest stranding season! But we'll share news and tidbits when we can. Stay tuned.

A vast majority of the turtles that we treat at the Aquarium's rescue facility are juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtles. They are about the size of a dinner plate, easily held by volunteers during regular check-ups.

A volunteer drains water from a Kemp's ridley before its exam

But this year, which is already shaping up to be somewhat unusual, we got an even more unusual patient—a large turtle that looks very much like an adult Kemp's ridley sea turtle. This turtle weighs around 40 pounds and is too big for some of our recovery pools already brimming with smaller turtles. Volunteers must lift her out of her pool and into a large, topless kennel carrier for her exam, which includes blood tests and a careful examination of her flippers, shell and mouth.

The large Kemp's weighs about 40 pounds.
The Kemp's in its kennel carrier for an exam. 
Connie examines the turtle's carapace, or top shell, as volunteers look on
Julika and Connie look inside the turtle's mouth for abrasions or obstructions. 

While we're still waiting on some tests, this turtle appears to have several underlying issues including a swollen flipper and pneumonia. Right now we're just at the early stages of treating her. She needs to fight off any of her infections before we're able to look into any problems with her joints. Stay tuned for updates on her progress during her long road to recovery.

12/21/15

2015 Turtles: Sick turtles bring seaweed

The cold-stunned sea turtles are arriving in great numbers these days. Our rescuers are working to keep up with turtle exams, transports, feedings and more. But we'll share news and tidbits here. Stay tuned!

Most of the cold-stunned sea turtles that arrive at our facility for rehabilitation have been floating out in Cape Cod Bay for a while. Since they've been moving so slowly, seaweed and algae have had a chance to accumulate on their bodies. Here are some examples of the flora that the turtles carry to Quincy.




But once the turtles have been examined by our rescue team, their shells are gently scrubbed with kitchen sponges so we can write an ID number on their shell. This color-coded ID number, which also appears on a temporary band on their flipper, helps the rescuers identify the turtles as they float in the pools. That way they can pull the correct turtle for its exam or document how much an individual turtle eats.



Those ID numbers are already well over 100. Buckle up, sea turtle stranding season is getting busy—very busy!

12/15/15

2015 Turtles: Rescue season is now!

After an unprecedented rescue season last winter, the sea turtle stranding season is off to an unusual start this year. More than 100 have arrived at our turtle hospital in Quincy so far. That's enough to make it an average year (last year aside). But the season is still going and the temperature shows no sign of dropping.

A Kemp's ridley turtle recovers in a tank

Stay tuned as we start posting some pictures and updates about the interesting cases this year (including a mature Kemp's ridley that stranded—very unusual) and pictures of the routines underway. Thanks for joining us for another cold-stun sea turtle stranding season!

9/10/15

Cape Cod sea turtle release: An intern perspective.

One of our summer interns, Ava, is guest blogging about her experience at the last turtle release. If you are interested in becoming an intern for the New England Aquarium, please visit our Get Involved pageKeep reading for Ava's experience!

Visitors to the Aquarium on Central Wharf can dig into the turtle rescue experience at our Sea Turtle Hospital, compete with replica sea turtles that you can feed and diagnose. Buy tickets online today and you won't pay a ticketing surcharge.

Guest Blogger Ava!
I knew from the very beginning that the goal for the animals I was working with at the New England Aquarium Rescue department was to get them back into the ocean. It was something I enjoyed most about my internship, and it was definitely a crucial factor in my summer job search. I wanted to do more than work with animals, and I knew that the New England Aquarium Rescue would provide me with the unique experience I was looking for. The idea that these animals would someday return to the open ocean was something that was important to me in my every day work. And on the last day of my internship, I was lucky enough to see it for myself. On August 5, 2015, the staff, interns, volunteers and I released three Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and one loggerhead on West Dennis Beach on Cape Cod. One minute they were here, and then they were gone. (See lots more pictures from release events here!)


The release preparation was an intense process that entailed the hard work and dedication of staff, volunteers and interns. The staff spent hours upon hours planning the release. From ordering and testing tagging materials, sanding down the turtles’ shells, planning the placement and orientation of the tags, coordinating volunteer schedules and everything in between, it was impossible not to admire their dedication and understood responsibility to these animals.




The loggerhead was tagged the day before the release, a process that took about three hours. I followed the lead of seasoned volunteers who knew exactly what to do in almost every situation. Tagging stations were set up throughout the clinic where volunteers and interns were in rotation—holding and restraining turtles as they received their satellite tags.



Once all the turtles were tagged and the epoxy had set, they were put back in their temporary habitat in order to allow them to calm down before the transport. I and other volunteers took shifts observing their behavior, intervening when they attempted to bite each other’s tags. 


When it came time to get the turtles into the truck for transport, the loggerhead required the strength of three people including myself to get him into his transport bed. The other three turtles were put in the standard turtle boxes we used during exams and procedures, lined with towels and cushion. Once all four turtles were in the back of the suburban, we were on our way. I sat in the back with the turtles, climbing back every time White crowned sparrow tried to climb his way out of his box to get him back inside.



Senior Biologist Linda Lory in front of the new Rescue team vehicle.

I watched as passerby’s looked confusedly at the giant turtle decal on the side of the truck. On our way to West Dennis Beach on the last day of my internship, a feeling of pride and appreciation came over me. I felt so lucky to have been able to spend my summer working with such amazing people and animals alike.



When we arrived at the beach, people crowded along the barrier where we were to release the turtles. A volunteer named Maggie and I carried out two of the Ridleys in their boxes and some of our colleagues from Wellfleet as well as one of our veterinarians carried the smaller turtles around for the public to get a better look.



After the “Parade of Turtles” as we so fondly refer to it, the three Ridleys were set on the sand and were cheered on as they scurried back into the ocean (all except one who was still recovering from his nap on the way to the beach, he needed a little more cheering than the rest). 

The picture above shows three of partners from the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. These are the hard working dedicated folks that walk the beaches to find the turtles when they strand.






After the ridleys, the loggerhead was set on the sand and made his way to the shoreline. Just like that, they were gone. 

Collaboration at it's finest. Above and below Aquarium, Wellfleet Audubon, and NOAA staff release the last cold-stun turtle of 2014, Snowy Owl.


I couldn’t have asked for a better way to conclude my internship with the New England Aquarium. I was lucky enough to get to see the end result of all the work I did this summer. Luckily though, the staff at the Rescue Center couldn’t get rid of me that easily. I am still volunteering at the New England Aquarium Rescue and we are already getting ready to meet the turtles of the 2015 season.

To see where Common Eider (480), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (513), White Crowned Sparrow (699), and Snowy Owl (734) are now either click on their "name" or click here to visit the seaturtle.org website.

Thanks to Ava and all of the interns over the past months for helping with the extraordinary amount of sea turtles.

— Adam