Memory Lane: The long road to recovery for two turtles

When I first started at the New England Aquarium as a volunteer in the Rescue and Rehabilitation department I was so excited to be working with seals and dolphins. Then, my first sea turtle cold-stun season began and I developed an additional passion.

2002 was a big year for stranded sea turtles. We had 101 animals come to the Aquarium and of those 69 survived. Working with the turtles during that season changed my focus from the "charismatic" mammals to the "stoic" "knowing" sea turtles (I still do get a thrill when working with the mammals though). It was pretty crazy when new turtles were arriving daily, sometimes seven or eight animals at a time. They would be coming in at staggered times up to three trips from the Wellfleet Audubon per day. They would be lined up and down our hallway in different areas of the Aquarium swimming at different temperatures and salinity. It was a rush. These animals were amazing. They would look like they were dead, but then you would find that one faint heartbeat or see a very slight movement or twitch and they would make full recoveries.

So, why this trip down memory lane? We received a message this week about two sea turtles that were released within this past week which, had arrived during the 2002 cold-stun season. Dumbledore and Hagrid were two of four hybrids that cold-stunned that year. Both turtles were quite aggressive. Jen(another current staff member) and I were put in the pool when they were introduced to each other to make sure that if they became aggressive with each other, we could be there to separate them. I think that seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately they did not get along and had to be separated.

Both turtles ended up fracturing front flippers and they had to be stabilized surgically. We are not positive as to what the cause of the fractures were but were unable to be released at the time so they were transferred to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio to continue rehabilitation. About two weeks ago they were transferred to the Virginia Aquarium in hopes to be released off the Virginia coast. The water was still not warm enough so they brought the turtles down to North Carolina where they were released.

Both turtles gained almost 70 kg (154 lbs) during the past seven years and have had quite an adventure at the beginning of their lives. The great collaboration between everyone involved has culminated in what we in the rehabilitation world see as our ultimate goal: the release of a wild animal back to it's natural environment.

It was very exciting for me to hear about their release because personally it has allowed me to reflect on my time here and see two old friends make it home!



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