Oiled Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Arrives at Audubon Aquarium's Aquatics Center

Wed, 5/19/2010 - 3:51 PM

By Meghan Calhoun

New Orleans, LA - An oiled Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is being cared for at Audubon Aquarium’s Aquatics Center in New Orleans. A team from Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program (LMMSTRP), Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries(LDWF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) retrieved the turtle May 18th, 2010, from oily waters in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

This Kemp’s Ridley is the first rescued sea turtle reported to be affected by the oil and was discovered approximately 33 nautical miles offshore. It was transported by a LDWF vessel to the USFWS headquarters in Venice, LA. The turtle was taken to the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program in New Orleans, coordinated by Audubon Aquarium of the Americas under the direction of Michele Kelley.

The baby Kemp’s Ridley was examined by Audubon Nature Institute veterinarians and oil and blood samples were taken. The turtle was transferred to the wash station where it received the “spa treatment” with Dawn soap and a toothbrush.

“Audubon Aquarium is proud is to be the coordinating facility for the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.” says Michele Kelley. “It is a great privilege to work with all the organizations from around the state and country to provide the greatest care possible to marine animals such as the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.”

All species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened, the Kemp’s Ridley is the number one most critically endangered sea turtle. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles live in sheltered areas along the coast including bays, bayous and estuaries and are considered the smallest sea turtles, usually weighing between 80 and 100 pounds when fully matured.

“Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles were placed on the Louisiana endangered species list in 1989, so it is very important that we rescue and rehabilitate those sea turtles we find that have been affected by the Gulf oil spill,” says LDWF Secretary Robert Barham, “Our department conducts several daily beach and water surveys looking for any distressed marine mammals, sea turtles or other wildlife. In recent years, the Kemp’s population has slowly started to recover, so we hope to mitigate any decline in this species due to the oil spill.”

The turtle will be observed by staff until it receives a ‘bill of clean health’ from Audubon Nature Institute veterinarians. Then the turtle will be kept at a facility for holding until the Gulf of Mexico is deemed safe enough for release.

To view Audubon Aquarium of the Americas' web page on Zoo and Aquarium Visitor, go to:  http://www.zandavisitor.com/forumtopicdetail-381-Audubon_Zoo_Audubon_Aquarium_of_the_Americas

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