Aquarium Sea Turtle Hospital treats record number of turtles

  • Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program makes two major milestones in less than a month. The program released its 100th rehabilitated sea turtle in December, and is currently treating the most patients in its history. Eight new turtles have been admitted to the facility, three from North Carolina and an additional five from New England.

The East Coast is experiencing a massive cold-stunning event with hundreds of hypothermic sea turtles washing up on beaches from North Carolina all the way up to Maine. The influx of new patients has inundated rescue programs across the Northeast. To help free up space at those facilities, the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program is taking on eight new patients. On Thursday, Jan. 10, three cold-stunned loggerhead sea turtles were transferred from North Carolina and on Monday, Jan. 14 five cold-stunned sea turtles from the New England Aquarium were flown down to Charleston for continued treatment. That transfer included four Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the most endangered out of all the sea turtle species, as well as one loggerhead.

When sea turtles are exposed to cold water temperatures for long periods of time, they undergo a hypothermic reaction. Symptoms of that reaction include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy, all followed by shock, pneumonia and, in the worst case scenarios, death. Sea turtles are affected by cold-stunning because they are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Because of that, in cold weather they don’t have the ability to warm themselves and that’s why in the winter, typically around the end of October, sea turtles migrate to warmer waters.

You can help care for sea turtles in recovery at the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital by going to www.scaquarium.org and making a donation. While online you can also visit the Sea Turtle Hospital’s blog at http://seaturtlehospital.blogspot.com/ to track the progress of patients currently being cared for at the hospital. You can also find out more about visiting the hospital as part of a behind-the-scenes tour.

In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program works to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles that strand along the South Carolina coast. Located in the aquarium, the Sea Turtle Hospital admits 20 to 30 sea turtles each year. Many of these animals are in critical condition and some are too sick to save.

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