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.


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.


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.


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!


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!