I interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to bring you breaking news from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The first Kemp's ridley sea turtle was rescued from the oil slicked waters of the gulf. I have read conflicting reports but to be inclusive and not leave anyone out...the turtle was collected by a team including members from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife, the NOAA Fisheries Service, the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (AOA) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (I'm guessing it was a big boat!). The team collected the animal while conducting a vessel based sea turtle survey. The animal was found completely covered in oil approximately 30 nautical miles off the Louisiana coast.

The turtle was brought to AOA for a physical exam, cleaning and veterinary care. Dr. Cara Fields and sea turtles coordinator Michelle Kelley from AOA lead a team of experts in the cleaning and care of this turtle.

Photo from an article in the Zoo and Aquarium Visitor

The photo below shows the little Kemp's undergoing the cleaning process. The oil is difficult to remove from the skin and shell. The experts at AOA used Dawn dish washing detergent to break down the oil and gently scrubbed it off with a toothbrush. Dawn is commonly used in wildlife de-oiling stations for birds and other species.

Photo from Oiled Wildlife Care Network Blog

In the photo below the rescued sea turtle receives a physical exam.

Photo from Oiled Wildlife Care Network Blog

It appears that the vessel based surveys will continue throughout the weekend and possibly longer based on their success. AOA and 3 other local agencies have been set up as the primary critical care facilities for all oiled sea turtles. These facilities were selected based on their expertise with sea turtles, available hospital space and geographic location. Each facility has been prepared with the appropriate equipment and the proper safety gear necessary to work with these exotic animals and the hazardous material that they will be covered in upon arrival. As you can see in the photo above, personnel will be completely covered to prevent contamination and human health risks while working with the oiled animals.

The New England Aquarium stands on high alert, with expert staff ready to heed the call if requested to assist at one of the above facilities or to potentially receive animals after the de-oiling phase. Resource needs remain to be seen and will become known as this disaster continues.

I will do my best to keep you updated as new information becomes available.


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