Following on from completing her training period earlier in the year, Deep Aquarist, Shoshana, has returned to the New England Aquarium Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Over the 3 weeks, she will be putting into practise valuable skills that aim to save the lives of hundreds of sea turtles.
As winter approaches, sea turtles should make their way south to warmer tropical waters as the waters around Cape Cod Bay becomes too cold. However, each year, as many as 800 turtles do not make the journey in time. Trapped by the hook shape of the bay, the turtles can become disoriented. When the water reaches about 10°C by mid-November, the turtles are too cold to eat, drink, or swim, and become “cold-stunned.” Often they are suffering from life-threatening hypothermia, emaciation, dehydration or injuries.
Thrown into the thick of it this past week, Shoshana has been working days and nights with the team, assisting in the rehabilitation of stranded turtles, administering immediate and vital care to get them back onto the road of recovery.
Shoshana says “We have had around 400 turtles admitted to the centre already. It’s proving to be one of their busiest seasons so far, which has included a 300lb Loggerhead, the largest they have ever rescued. The size and condition of her carapace suggests she is very old, but we cannot for sure say what age she may be”
“I have been getting quite involved as the turtles arrive at the centre. Raising the turtle’s body temperature is a delicate process, increasing it too quickly can cause more damage. So when they come in, they all go into pools at 12.5°C, this is then increased by 5 degrees each day until they are well enough to go into the largest pool, which is maintained at 22°C.
“The coldest I have encountered this past week was a Kemp ridley’s turtle whose internal temperature was 7.4°C - it was so cold in my hands, I couldn’t believe it was still alive! For extreme case like these, where the turtle is very weak and not breathing well, they are offered more assistance. They are placed on a neoprene ‘surfboard’ to help keep them afloat in the water until they are strong enough to break the surface and take good breaths on their own”.
Each turtle in the centre is continually and critically assessed until they are deemed strong enough to return to the ocean and complete their migration down to warmer waters. With two more weeks of work ahead, Shoshana is keeping us updated on her time at the centre. Stay tuned for more news soon.
Across the globe, there are seven different species of Sea turtle living in our world’s oceans, all of which are registered on the IUCN Red List. Six of these – Green, Leatherback, Kemp Ridley’s, Loggerhead and the Olive Ridley – can be found throughout the oceans, in both warm and cold waters. The seventh species, the Flatback turtle, lives only in Australia.