Sea turtle strandings reached record high last summer
provided by National Aquarium in Baltimore
he National Aquarium in Baltimore rescued and rehabili tated more sea turtles than ever this past summer, a possible indication that sea turtle strandings are on the rise. In the past 10 years, the Aquarium rescued and rehabilitated 26 sea turtles. In 2002, it cared for nine sea turtles, an all-time record. In South Carolina this week, the Aquarium will release its last patient from the busy summer season: a sea turtle that's been rehabilitating for five months.
Since all sea turtles are threatened or endangered, we can make a difference with every release, said David Schofield, the Aquarium's manager of ocean health and manager of its Marine Animal Rescue Program.
The turtle was struck by a boat propeller and rescued in Bauer's Beach, Delaware, last June. Its injuries included a broken shell, bruising of the skull, damage to an eye and dehydration. As a result of the broken shell, gas built up in its body cavity, preventing it from swimming and diving normally.
Based on its injuries, this turtle would not be alive if it weren't for quick rescue response and intensive care from dozens of staff and volunteers, added Schofield.
The turtle is most likely a loggerhead sea turtle, although it exhibits a few characteristics of a green sea turtle. The Aquarium has ordered genetic testing to be certain.
While rehabilitating in an isolated hospital pool at the Aquarium, the turtle ate fish and plants, which is highly unusual since loggerheads usually eat fish and green sea turtles generally eat plants.
A satellite tag, paid for by a grant from the Prentice Foundation, will help track the turtle so that scientists can learn more about its behaviors. The general public may also track it at whale.wheelock.edu/Welcome.html.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore's Marine Animal Rescue Program is a part of the Aquarium's growing commitment to conservation, and is on call 24/7 to respond to stranded marine animals in the mid-Atlantic. The program relies on a network of 150 volunteers to respond quickly. Statistically, 75 percent of stranded marine animals do not survive.
The Aquarium also has the largest hospital pool in the mid-Atlantic, enabling it to rescue and release a variety of animals such as dolphins, seals and whales. The rescue program relies heavily on grants, donations and public support in order to maintain specialized equipment, medications, food and two staff members.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore, a nonprofit organization, is Maryland's leading attraction, hosting more than 1.6 million visitors per year. Its vision is to connect people with aquatic life in order to make a better world for both. The Aquarium is dedicated to conservation and education through more than a dozen programs that serve the environment and the community. Its Web address is www.aqua.org.