2014 Turtles: Last turtle of the season?

This was an Aquarium media release distributed on December 30, 2014. 

In an already record setting year for cold-stunned sea turtles on Cape Cod, a 65-pound brown-shelled sea turtle emerged from the frigid surf of Great Island in Wellfleet Monday afternoon, just two days before New Year’s. Many New Englanders might be skeptical that sea turtles could be found in the region’s cold temperate waters even during the summer, much less than in the full blown grip of official winter! Two weeks had passed since the last live sea turtle had been found, and unofficially most everyone involved in this year’s tremendous six week long rescue effort was probably secretly grateful that it appeared over.

Over the next fortnight, beach walkers occasionally found the carcasses of long dead sea turtles that were collected for later necropsy. Then four days after Christmas, the rescue staff of the Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary received word that a good-sized loggerhead had come ashore. The logical assumption was that this would be a body retrieval for later necropsy, but reports were that the animal was moving!

Officially on well-earned time off, Mass Audubon staff responded to find a large, live loggerhead that was somewhat active. They quickly found a volunteer to drive the severely hypothermic marine reptile 90 miles to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA. Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Kathy Tuxbury, found the turtle alive but extremely lethargic with a 44.9 degree body temperature and requiring respiratory aid. After blood work, she administered some life-saving drugs to the underweight but not emaciated turtle. The animal was quickly responsive to a variety of treatments. As of late Tuesday, the body temperature was steadily rebounding, and it was swimming for extended periods of time. The prognosis remains guarded, but nearly all signs are trending positively.

Christmas miracle, plucky survivor against all odds or just the last turtle standing after an out-of-control summerlong crab feast, this now lively loggerhead had his 15 minutes of media time on New Year’s Eve. This yet to be named sea turtle is the 746th one admitted to the Aquarium’s animal care center this year. In an average year over the past decade, 90 hypothermic sea turtles are usually treated.

As 2014 closes, the New England Aquarium would like to thank all of those who this past November and December helped to save hundreds of the world’s most endangered sea turtles. That includes our amazing, long term partner Mass Audubon, the hundreds of local volunteers who walked beaches or helped in our sea turtle hospital, the Coast Guard and the private pilots who airlifted turtles,  NOAA– the federal oceans agency—and the dozens of marine animal rehab facilities in 16 states that either took re-warmed and stabilized sea turtles or sent professional staff to help care for all of the hypothermic sea turtles in this record smashing year. Our last loggerhead is also grateful as it welcomed in a new year.


2014 Turtles: In the National News

Our local sea turtle stranding tidalwave continues to pique the interest of folks around the country.

A rescued sea turtle awaits its entrance exam
Here are a couple national news stories that you may have missed.
In these news stories, you'll find a lot of interesting information about the rescue efforts that take place down on Cape Cod, before the turtles even arrive at our facility. Beach walkers and triage by Mass Audubon is a critical step in the journey to recovery for these rescued sea turtles.

Some turtles have completed that journey and have returned to warm Florida waters. Safe travels, turtles!

Thanks to Jenn Dittmar at National Aquarium for sharing this picture via Twitter.


2014 Turtles: Early Morning Transport

As of mid-December, more than 700 turtles have been treated at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy. In order to make room for new patients, we've had to transport turtles to many facilities up and down the East Coast and Gulf Coast.

This morning, we had a crew of dedicated staff and volunteers on the scene well before the sun came up. Each turtle needs to be gentle scooped up from their holding pen, given a quick checkup and then tucked into their transport banana box. Here's a look.

83 turtles headed south to Gulfport, Mississippi for the long months of rehabilitation ahead. That's thanks to another tremendous transport by the U.S. Coast Guard. Meanwhile, there are still more than 70 in the pens and pools at our facility.

Stay tuned for more about the care that goes into nursing these animals back to health.

Catch up on some recent turtle news:


2014 Turtles: It's all about team work!

You might have wondered... With nearly 750 sick sea turtles admitted to our Quincy Animal Care Center since mid November, how are we able to function and provide care to these animals?

Well, here is your answer... Team work!

NEAQ staff and interns working side by side with our colleagues from Virginia Aquarium visiting to help treat endangered sea turtles .
We have discussed many times before the importance of our partners at Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary - it is thanks to their staff and volunteers who walk countless beaches at all hours of the day and night, in all weather conditions, that these turtles were rescued, recovered, triaged and transported to the NEAQ. Our rescue volunteers and interns have also worked tirelessly for the past four weeks, giving us any free hour they have and often working very long days.

In this post we would like to introduce you to our partners and colleagues from other stranding network organizations who are supporting us through this event by providing their staff, interns, volunteers and other resources such as transport vehicles. 

IFAW staff member working with Katie Pugliares, NEAQ rescue staff, on a Kemp's ridley sea turtle. Our colleague from the marine mammal department who was helping us out that day is looking at the master turtle board locating the next turtle scheduled for treatment. 
There is not a single Rescue Department staff in the picture above! The few people in green scrubs are NEAQ rescue volunteers and interns, while everyone else is representing another departments or organizatios: NH Seacoast Science Center, IFAW, and NEAQ marine mammal and education departments. 
Our colleagues from the National Aquarium in Baltimore as well as another Virginia Aquarium staff member were helping with treatments and feedings of sea turtles all of last week.
Our volunteers and interns also work as a team most of the time...
... although sometimes their team is a number of newly admitted sea turtles...
... or a stack of empty banana boxes readied for an upcoming transport.
NOAA Fisheries provided their staff and a vehicle to transport numerous sea turtles to  other facilities as well to local airports where the animals were flying from to secondary facilities down south.

While our team is treating, swimming, and feeding the sea turtles, the staff at the Animal Health Department is tirelessly processing and analyzing the blood samples, taking x-ray pictures of our patients and then reading and interpreting the results to come up with best treatment plans.

Sarah Hough and Deana Edmunds from AHD working on blood processing and analyzing

Sarah positioning a Kemp's ridley sea turtle on an x-ray plate for radiographs

After the x-ray pictures are downloaded to the computer it is necessary to check if they came out okay before sending the patient back to its rehabilitation pool. 
It is thanks to this amazing team of caring individuals that we were able to provide care to nearly 750 endangered sea turtles that came through our door and transport hundreds of them to secondary facilities up and down the east coast for long term rehabilitation. It is also thanks to this team that we are able to see results like the one below:

X-ray pictures of sea turtle NEST-14-500-Lk. The picture on the left was taken just a few days after the animal was admitted  to NEAQ and shows severe pneumonia - the area affected looks like a "bubble wrap" and some of it is pointed with arrows. The picture on the right is the same turtle after undergoing two weeks of rehabilitation and antibiotic therapy - the "bubble wrap" like area is almost non existing indicating recession of pneumonia!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our rescue volunteers and interns, Mass Adudubon at Wellfleet Bay staff and volunteers, NEAq Animal Health department staff, other NEAQ departments who sent staff to help, as well as our colleagues from stranding network organizations and other institutions: International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Seacoast Science Center (SSC), National Marine Life Center (NMLC), Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, and MSPCA Nevins Farm staff and volunteers.

A sincere THANK YOU to those mentioned above and the countless volunteers making the care of these endangered turtles possible. 

 - Julika


2014 Turtles: Some snapshot of our patients

Just when we thought this year's stranding season couldn't get any bigger, any more massive, we get another shipment of 40 cold-stunned sea turtles (that happened on Monday). The volunteers in Wellfleet are doing still putting in long hours and long walks looking for stranded turtles. And here at the Animal Care Center, we are managing with the help of volunteers and seasoned staff to diagnose, treat, feed and care for turtles. 

Some of the turtles engage with people on the other side of the glass, others not as much

Currently we're caring for 160 turtles. More than 600 have been treated since stranding season started, but many of those turtles have been transported to other facilities on the East Coast for rehabilitation—thanks to our rescue partners and generous donations from private donors and the Coast Guard

So until we can regale you with interesting cases and the routine of rehabilitating endangered species, here's a quick look at some of the turtles in our care.

A Kemp's ridley swims with others in its holding pen

Take a gander at the numbers on these turtles: 612, 640, 668.
These are numbers we haven't ever seen before.

So many turtles!

If you see a stranded turtle on Cape Cod, 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.


2014 Turtles: A Mid-Stranding Season Recap

Every year, the New England Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Team rehabilitates critically endangered sea turtles and releases them back into the wild. Your support makes programs like this possible.

We are in the midst of an epic sea turtle stranding season right now. Take a look.

The Aquarium's Rescue Team has now treated more than 600 turtles at the Animal Care Center. That's nearly four times the number treated during our last record-breaking cold-stun season in 2012. Some of the healthier turtles seen in the video have been transported to other rescue facilities up and down the East Coast after being stabilized by Aquarium rescuers. This will make room for even more patients. Each turtle is in for several months of rehabilitation before being released back into the ocean.

A green sea turtle patient

And still, the turtles keep arriving. Volunteers with our partners at Mass. Audubon are strolling the beaches looking for cold-stunned turtles that may have washed onto the beaches along Cape Cod. Those turtles are triaged at Mass Audubon in Wellfleet then transported down to the Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass.

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

New arrivals get a swim to hopefully stimulate activity. In the early days of rehabilitation, turtles
sometimes need a helping hand to keep their heads above water.

There's still a lot more turtle saving ahead. Stay tuned.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.



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, 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