The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher team is currently caring for two endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. The sea turtles were injured in a recent cold-stunning event in New England.
The Aquarium’s Animal Care Team will provide the turtles with special diets and close monitoring for health complications resulting from the cold-stunning. Initial veterinary examinations predict strong prognoses for the animals with limited recuperation times. The smaller of the turtles weighs 3 lbs. (1.4 kilograms), the larger weighs 9 lbs. (4.1 kilograms).
“The sea turtles are responding well and growing stronger each day,” said Aquarium Curator Julie Johnson. “Continued observation is important, however, to ensure no health concerns arise.”
When the animals fully recover and conditions allow, they will be released in the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream.
Sea turtles are reptiles and cannot control their own body temperatures. Cold-stunning can occur when water temperatures drop quickly to below 50 degrees. Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic, experience decreased circulation and heart rates, and may die. They are susceptible to respiratory illness, animal attacks, and bacterial and fungal infections. Serious cuts and abrasions may occur if the animal is washed ashore.
The Aquarium, while not a traditional rehabilitation center, collaborates yearly with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and other organizations and aquariums to offer space and resources to care for injured sea turtles. A total of 30 cold-stunned sea turtles were transported from the New England Aquarium to North Carolina for care in late November. Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores are also caring for sea turtles from New England.
“Our team has the experience and expertise to care for these endangered animals even though we are not a rescue facility,” said Peggy Sloan, director, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “It is our mission and responsibility to offer assistance and help save these animals.”
The Aquarium receives no additional funding or staff to assist in turtle care. Anyone interested in making a donation to assist in the care and rehabilitation of the sea turtles may contact (910) 772-0500 or visit https://ncaquariums.com/livingtreasures/.
Cold stunning can occur along the North Carolina coast as well. Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.