The story of two rescued sea turtles ends on a happy note today. After intensive medical care and rehabilitation efforts, The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation team has just returned those two loggerhead turtles to Canaveral National Seashore in New Smyrna, Florida.
In June 2016, the first loggerhead “Rosemary” was found emaciated and lethargic at Cape Canaveral Air Force station. She was triaged by the local Brevard Zoo response team and then transferred to The Florida Aquarium for long-term rehabilitation. The Florida Aquarium Director of Animal Health Dr. Kathy Heym recalls, “When she arrived, her carapace and skin were covered with barnacles, and she was extremely anemic — a sign that she had been ill for a long time. Her blood sugar also was low indicating she wasn’t eating and likely had a systemic infection.”
In the months that followed, Heym and her team treated Rosemary with fluids, dextrose and antibiotics to correct immediate life-threatening issues. Her anemia was further treated with a blood transfusion from a rescued donor loggerhead named Li’l Herc at Sea World Orlando. After the transfusion, she started to turn the corner and began eating, gaining weight and improving clinically. She currently weighs a whopping 130 pounds (males can reach up to 235 pounds!).
Ginger, the second loggerhead sea turtle, was found in Northeast Atlantic waters by the New England Aquarium this past December, flown by airplane to Tampa Executive Airport and then transported to The Florida Aquarium. The animal was triaged, meaning that blood samples and x-rays were taken and a full exam was conducted. Fortunately, no secondary issues from the cold-stunning were found, so Aquarium experts provided her warm water temperatures, good nutrition and time to heal. Heym said confidently, “She’s been eating great and gaining weight since her arrival. Now weighing over 80 pounds, Ginger is totally ready for the wild.”
“Collaboration between wildlife agencies and other zoological facilities is critical to saving endangered sea turtles, as is learning as much as possible as quickly as possible,” explains The Florida Aquarium Vice President of Conservation, Science and Research Margo McKnight.
The Florida Aquarium is extensively involved in sea turtle conservation including rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Along with having an experienced team, resources will include a 16,000+ square-foot Sea Turtle Hospital and Research Center now underway at the Aquarium’s Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach. It will house recovery, pre-release feeding and deep diving pools to increase success of sea turtle survival post-release. The hospital suite will support health assessments on rescued animals as well as healthy turtles that are part of a wild population study.
McKnight shares, ”Loggerhead sea turtles are threatened in our waters, and endangered in other parts of the world. We must do everything we can to protect them and restore their populations, including right here in Tampa Bay. We get so inspired every time we return these beautiful animals to the ocean for a second chance at survival.”