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BOSTON, MASS. (June 28, 2023) – After months undergoing rehabilitative care at the New England Aquarium, four critically endangered sea turtles are back in the ocean waters off of Cape Cod.
The turtles spent seven months at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy, MA, undergoing treatment for hypothermia-related conditions including pneumonia, dehydration, and trauma, a result of being unable to regulate their body temperature in the cold waters of Cape Cod Bay in the fall. After physical examinations earlier this month, staff veterinarians cleared the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles to return to Nantucket Sound on Wednesday morning.
“Being able to care for these critically endangered turtles throughout the year and ensure they have a chance to return to the ocean is something we’re extremely proud of as a conservation organization. These four Kemp’s ridleys join the nearly 5,000 sea turtles our New England Aquarium team has helped rehabilitate and release over the past 25 years,” said Adam Kennedy, Director of Rescue and Rehabilitation at the Aquarium.
Aquarium staff, volunteers, and interns have a tradition of naming the turtles receiving long-term care. The turtles released Wednesday are Gnocchi, Bucatini, Bavette, and Kluski. Bavette suffered from severe pneumonia that required bronchoscopy, lung biopsy, and intensive medical management. Bucatini arrived to the Sea Turtle Hospital with severe eye trauma and skin infection but made a remarkable recovery after long-term medical management and eye surgery.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are a critically endangered species, facing threats including fisheries interactions, climate change, ocean pollution, and degradation of their habitat. Rescue and rehabilitation efforts help to conserve this species.
During the 2022 cold-stunning season, the Aquarium treated 518 live sea turtles that were rescued from the shores of Cape Cod in November and December by staff and volunteers with Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Aquarium veterinarians worked with staff biologists to create individualized treatment plans for the turtles that required months-long care.
“These turtles are able to recover from extremely serious injuries, infections and metabolic imbalances. They never cease to amaze me,” said New England Aquarium Senior Veterinarian Dr. Kathy Tuxbury.
In addition to Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, the Aquarium works closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries Service and the nonprofit organization Turtles Fly Too to save the sea turtles, many of which are transferred to partner organizations across the country to continue rehabilitation. There are 22 turtles remaining at the Aquarium’s Quincy facility, which will be released off of Cape Cod this summer once medically cleared by Aquarium veterinarians.
The New England Aquarium, in partnership with National Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium, is working with Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-8), and Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) to introduce and advance the Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act. The bill would help provide the federal funds needed for institutions across the country to continue the rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation work necessary to protect these endangered species.
More details on the released turtles:
- “Bucatini” (#512)– Stranded Dec. 4, 2022, in Eastham, MA. The turtle arrived to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital with severe eye trauma and a severe skin infection that invaded deep into the muscle of the neck and shoulders. After a long course of medical therapy, the turtle had greatly improved but still needed surgery to improve its eye function. A veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Ruth Marrion, performed a successful surgery, and Bucatini was cleared to return to the ocean. Current weight: 3.1 kg. Weight at intake: 1.7 kg.
- “Bavette” (#830) – Stranded Dec. 15, 2022, in Barnstable, MA. The turtle had a bronchoscopy procedure performed in late January and a lung biopsy in March due to persistent pneumonia and was prescribed both antibiotic and antifungal therapy. Bavette’s lungs improved over time and she is now ready for release. Current weight: 4.4 kg. Weight at intake: 2.7 kg.
- “Kluski” (#877) – Stranded Dec. 18, 2022, in Dennis, MA. Shortly after the turtle arrived to Quincy, Aquarium veterinarians prescribed eye drops for a lesion on the turtle’s left eye. The turtle also had a large, deep right shoulder wound, which led to a CT scan at Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital to gain more information about the depth and extent of the wound and to also evaluate its lung health. The wound has healed well after months of care and antibiotic treatment. Current weight: 4.5 kg. Weight at intake: 2.6 kg.
- “Gnocchi” (#900) – Stranded Dec. 19, 2022, in Dennis, MA. This turtle had little interest in eating in the beginning, but with the help of a daily appetite stimulant, it soon developed a healthy appetite. During hands-on exams, veterinarians discovered inflammation of fat in the turtle’s neck area, known as steatitis. Gnocchi received vitamin E injections to help with the condition, which has improved significantly. Current weight: 3.8 kg. Weight at intake: 2.6 kg.
Pam Bechtold Snyder – email@example.com, 617-686-5068