Eight new Kemp’s ridley sea turtle patients have arrived at the National Marine Life Center, thus marking another milestone as the first sea turtles in our new marine animal hospital. All eight animals stranded on Cape Cod beaches this November suffering from having been cold-stunned. Cold-stunning is a form of severe hypothermia that impacts these cold-blooded reptiles as the water starts to chill.
The sea turtles were rescued by the dedicated volunteers and staff of Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and transported to the expert and caring turtle rehab staff at the New England Aquarium where they received emergency care. Over several weeks of critical care, the turtles were gradually warmed and began to swim and eat. Even as these eight turtles’ conditions stabilized, more and more turtles continued to strand.
To make room for new patients, the Aquarium began calling on colleagues in the sea turtle stranding network for assistance. With the first patient ward in our new hospital open, and with the Douglas J. Fletcher Memorial Sea Turtle and Seal Rehabilitation Pool ready and waiting, NMLC was happy to be able to help.
So, we’d like to introduce our newest patients.
“Topsy“, #20, stranded at Crow’s Pasture in Dennis, MA on November 6. She currently weighs 1.6 kg (3.5 lb). Topsy was named in honor and memory of Gratia “Topsy” Montgomery, whose bequest to the National Marine Life Center allowed us to begin building our new hospital. The large spikes running down the middle of Topsy’s carapace (top shell) will eventually wear down as the animal grows.
“Gerald“, #21, stranded at Sandy Neck in Sandwich, MA on November 7. He currently weighs 3.1 kg (6.8 lb). Gerald was named in honor and memory of Gerald R., long-time NMLC supporter. The injury that you see on Gerald’s nose is not serious. Small wounds like this are common in cold-stunned sea turtles. Animal care staff and volunteers will monitor the wounds, apply topical antibiotic as necessary, and report any changes to our veterinarians.
“Betsy“, #22, stranded at Sandy Neck in Sandwich, MA on November 9. She currently weighs 2.2 kg (4.8 lb). Betsy was named in honor and memory of Elizabeth “Betsy” Hornor, NMLC co-founder and NMLC’s first Board Chair. Small, portable fetal doppler heart rate monitors are used to listen to sea turtles’ heart rates. The monitor’s probe is pressed along the neck until you hear the regular “wooshing” sound of the heart rate. It is common for cold stunned turtles to have slower heart rates than healthy turtles.
“Walter“, #23, stranded at Chapin Beach in Dennis, MA on November 9. He currently weighs 3.1 kg (6.8 lb). Walter was named in honor and memory of Walter Wentzell. long-time NMLC supporter. During examinations and transports, sea turtles are placed on a rolled towel to gently support and cushion their plastrons (bottom shells) which may be bruised from the stranding.
“Carolyn“, #24, stranded at Mayflower Beach in Dennis, MA on November 10. She currently weighs 2.2 kg (4.8 lb). Carolyn was named in honor and memory of Mrs. George R. Rowland, long-time NMLC supporter. During rehabilitation, the turtles are marked with a temporary white marker on their carapace (top shell). This allows us to easily tell the animals apart for treatments and feeds.
“Phoenix“, #25, stranded at Marsh Boat Meadow in Eastham, MA on November 14. She currently weighs 2.9 kg (6.4 lb). Phoenix got her name because NMLC Director Kathy Zagzebski likes the name and the symbolism! Phoenix has a small wound above her left eye. We are monitoring it, and so far it doesn’t seem to be impacting her ability to see, swim, or eat.
“Ernest“, #26, stranded at Breakwater Beach in Brewster, MA on November 16. He is the smallest of this group of turtles, currently weighing in at 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). Ernest was named in honor and memory of NMLC Animal Care Coordinator Kate Shaffer’s grandfather.Cold-stunned turtles that strand in Massachusetts are often significantly underweight, as you can see in this photo from the loose skin above the neck. As their body temperature drops, they stop eating.
“Papi“, #27, stranded on Cold Storage Beach in East Dennis, MA on November 16. He currently weighs 1.9 kg (4.2 lb). Papi was named by current NMLC Board Chair, Jeff Luce, in honor of his grandchildren! When admitting a new animal to the hospital, we take a series of photographs including side views. These help us check on wounds and body condition so we can monitor the animal’s progress throughout rehabilitation.
National Marine Life Center
2 days 5 hours ago
Hello, and welcome back to…you guessed it, #FactFriday! Now its time for the facts! As you know, sea turtles can become entangled in fishing gear