Feeling Lucky

This is a guest post from Senior Aquarium Educator Lisbeth Bornhofft. Read about Lisbeth in the Cool Jobs section of the Fall 2010 issue of our blue member magazine. She recently traveled to our new Animal Care Center in Quincy to check on the turtle care efforts and she posted about her day here.

After spending a day with the turtles and people in our Rescue and Rehabilitation facility, I felt tired, wet and cold, but I also felt lucky to have the opportunity to help out. I got to wondering if the turtles "feel lucky" too.

Sea turtles have powerful instincts for survival, but it's pretty well known that turtles don’t feel emotions the way we do. They have no concept of their endangered status as a species, they don’t know that they were rescued from an early demise on a cold beach, and they don’t know how hard so many people are working to ensure their continued well-being.

On that day, 53 turtles were receiving treatment. Many received fluids for dehydration and injections of antibiotics or vitamins. That’s a lot of syringes!

Several were treated for eye problems. Three different types of drops were used for various eye conditions: anti-inflammatory drops (or as Adam calls them, "ibuprofen for the eyes"), irrigating solution and triple antibiotic solution.

One turtle was active despite a severe wound with exposed bone and tissue. [Read about one surgery to repair a cracked turtle shell.] Wounds and abrasions are flushed with sterile solution and antibiotic ointment is applied. (The ointment used is silver sulfadiazine, which is commonly used for human burn victims.)

You wouldn't think that we would use a product called Mean Streak, but it's important that every turtle is clearly numbered. Mean Streak is supposed to be an indelible marker, but it's hard to apply anything to an algae-covered shell that is underwater all the time.

The volunteer to-do list for the day was daunting.

I met Katie Pugliares, a welcomed addition to the NEAq medical team. Here she’s holding one of the dozens of folders needed to keep track of medical treatments, conditions, test results and feeding behavior.

Staff members are not just concerned with the medical condition of the patients. Here you can see Kerry introducing a new object to a pool. It may look like strips of car wash material to us, but to the turtles we hope it resembles the kelp in their natural habitat.

In this clip you'll see that at first the turtles all clustered away from the strip. After one curious turtle inspected the new object, the others soon joined in.

One might not consider these turtles to be so fortunate—after all, they've had a rough time of it and they still have a long road to recovery. But as I watched the staff and volunteers who work long hours with barely a break for lunch, I realized that these turtles are indeed the lucky ones—whether they know it or not!

Take a swim with turtles on the road to recovery.

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