More than 700 Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles Treated and Released at Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center
January 11, 2018
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – From January 1 through January 10, the Texas State Aquarium has admitted and cared for nearly 800 cold-stunned sea turtles, releasing more than 700 sea turtles back into their natural habitat. This monumental undertaking – which took in more than a third of sea turtles recovered in Texas’ recent cold snap, marks an all-time record for the Aquarium’s wildlife rehabilitation team.
As cold weather swept through Texas in early January, over 2000 green sea turtles, afflicted by a hypothermic reaction called cold-stunning, were found by rescuers through the Lone Star State. Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief of the Padre Island National Seashore’s Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, collaborated with the Aquarium and other conservation partners to receive, maintain, and analyze records of cold stunned turtles throughout the state. Between January 1 and January 6, 755 of these sea turtles – more than a third of those found in Texas – were taken in by the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center. Staff and volunteers at the Aquarium worked around the clock to transport sea turtles from the Padre Island National Seashore and other facilities, document their health conditions, and treat them for cold-stunning. The sea turtles were housed in the Aquarium’s specialized rehabilitation center where their condition could be closely monitored and they could be gradually recover to a healthy body temperature.
Thanks to the skill and dedication of the Aquarium’s wildlife rehabilitation team, the majority of the cold-stunned sea turtles made a full recovery and were soon ready to be released. On Friday, January 5, nearly 200 sea turtles were released offshore with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard. On January 6, 343 sea turtles were released at Padre Island National Seashore. Another 130 green sea turtles were released at Padre Island National Seashore on January 7 at an event that drew more than a thousand members of the public. Several smaller-scale releases also took place on January 8 and 9. Between January 5 and January 9, a total of 716 sea turtles taken in and treated at the Aquarium were returned to their natural habitat.
As of January 10, 21 sea turtles in critical condition remain at the Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center. These sea turtles have various ailments ranging from wounds to missing flippers which require additional supportive care. Many sea turtles also show symptoms of fibropapillomatotis (FP), a disease that afflicts sea turtles with benign but debilitating tumors caused by the herpesvirus. Some of these sea turtles will undergo laser surgery to remove the most harmful tumorous growths before the sea turtles are released into their natural habitat.
The Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center is asking beach-goers and other residents to be on the lookout for stranded sea turtles this winter season. To report a stranded sea turtle on North Padre Island or in the upper Laguna Madre area, call: 361-949-8173 ext. 226. For other areas, call 1-866-TURTLE-5.
To learn more about the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center and donate to the rescue and recovery of sea turtles, shorebirds, raptors, and marine mammals, go to texastateaquarium.org/rescue.