Sea turtle rehabilitated for over a year by New England Aquarium and Mississippi Aquarium released into Gulf of Mexico

Turtle received acupuncture treatment, surgery for bone infection

Typhoon receives acupuncture treatment at the New England Aquarium in July 2021. CREDIT: New England Aquarium

BILOXI, MS (Jan. 14, 2022) – A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle that spent over a year being rehabilitated at the New England Aquarium and Mississippi Aquarium has been released back into the ocean.

**PHOTOS AND VIDEO AVAILABLE HERE, WITH CREDIT TO NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM UNLESS NOTED IN FILE NAME**

Staff from the Mississippi Aquarium looked on as the turtle, named Typhoon, swam into Gulf of Mexico waters off of Biloxi, MS, Thursday afternoon. A small crowd gathered to see the sea turtle return to its ocean home, concluding 13 months of care that included acupuncture treatment and bone infection surgery for the critically endangered turtle.

Typhoon stranded off of Orleans, MA, in December 2020 and received care for 10 months at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy, MA, where the Aquarium operates one of the largest sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation programs in the world. The Kemp’s ridley suffered from pneumonia and anemia, common diagnoses for cold-stunned turtles, and had a heart rate of just eight beats per minute. Months later, as the turtle continued its recovery, staff noticed something was off with Typhoon’s right front flipper. After running diagnostic tests, veterinarians discovered bacterial osteomyelitis—infection of the bone—in the turtle’s shoulder joint, confirmed with CT scans by veterinary radiologist Dr. Jennifer Brisson at Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital.

“This is a problem that we see in about one percent of cold-stunned patients. It is believed to be caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream during the time that the turtles are very cold, when their immune system is not strong,” said Dr. Charles Innis, Director of Animal Health at the New England Aquarium.

Typhoon was treated for several months with antibiotics before having surgery to remove the dead bone and clean out the joint in July 2021. The surgery was performed by veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert McCarthy from Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. On the road to recovery, Typhoon also received acupuncture treatment from Claire Alice McManus M.Ac. Lic.Ac. in order to improve strength and range of motion.

A Mississippi Aquarium veterinary technician prepares Typhoon for his release into the Mississippi Sound. CREDIT: Mississippi Aquarium

As fall approached, New England Aquarium staff needed to make room for more sea turtles in preparation for the annual cold-stunning event, when hundreds of turtles wash up on the beaches of Cape Cod and become hypothermic as water temperatures drop. Given this high number of turtles, the Aquarium relies on a partner network of aquariums and secondary rehabilitation facilities to continue the care that starts in New England. Typhoon needed a few more months of care post-surgery before being cleared to return to the wild, so colleagues at the Mississippi Aquarium agreed to take in the turtle, along with another that needed more time to rehabilitate. Volunteer pilots with the non-profit organization Turtles Fly Too stepped in to transport the turtles to Gulfport, MS, in October 2021.

“We are grateful that the Mississippi Aquarium was able to continue the turtle’s rehabilitative care and thrilled that it was healthy enough to be released back into the ocean. This is a huge success story and a testament to the vast, collaborative network of sea turtle rescue partners,” Dr. Innis said.

“Mississippi Aquarium is very fortunate to have the capacity and the extraordinary veterinary expertise to care for these turtles,” Mississippi Aquarium CEO and President Kurt Allen said. “The Aquarium is now overseeing the veterinary care of over 50 critically endangered sea turtles. We are fortunate that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is in their home range, and the goal of rehabilitation is to nurse them back to health and release them into the Gulf as soon as possible. We are very grateful for the partnership we have with New England Aquarium and we look forward to assisting with their Kemp’s ridley sea turtle conservation efforts.”

More than 500 live sea turtles stranded during the 2021 cold-stun season on Cape Cod. The season got off to a late start due to temperature fluctuations that kept Cape Cod Bay warm. Larger loggerhead sea turtles continued to wash ashore, still alive, into the new year.

“This season has certainly been unusual. We are so appreciative of organizations across the country that join us year after year to take an active part in this important conservation work,” said Adam Kennedy, Manager of Rescue and Rehabilitation at the New England Aquarium.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Pam Bechtold Snyder – psnyder@neaq.org, 617-686-5068