Large Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Released After Recovering from Apparent Shark Attack

July 15, 2020

On Thursday, July 7, 2020, the Texas State Aquarium released an adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle to the Gulf of Mexico. The Kemp’s ridley had been under the care of the Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center for nearly two and a half months, recuperating from a near-fatal injury to her shell.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – On Thursday, July 7, 2020, the Texas State Aquarium released an adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle to the Gulf of Mexico. The Kemp’s ridley had been under the care of the Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center for nearly two and a half months, recuperating from a near-fatal injury to her shell.

Staff from the Padre Island National Seashore encountered this resilient and critically endangered sea turtle on the Park’s beach on April 27. She had just finished laying a clutch of eggs despite having recently suffered a significant injury to the right lateral side of her carapace and soft tissue. Even though she was bleeding and seriously injured, the maternal instinct of this incredible animal could not be overcome.

It is not clear what caused the sea turtle’s wound. However, the impressions on her carapace are consistent with a shark attack. Large, adult Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have few predators in the wild.  

After being rescued, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was promptly transported to the Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Rescue Center where portions of the fractured shell were removed under general anesthesia to prevent hemorrhaging. Without medical intervention, the wounds almost certainly would have been fatal. Thanks to the quick action of the Aquarium’s rescue and veterinary teams, this Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was given a chance at recovery and to eventually return to the wild.

 

After the initial surgery, veterinary staff continued to treat the wound for several weeks until it had adequately healed. It will likely take months, if not years, for the sea turtle’s shell to fully heal. Although the turtle will continue to have damage to her carapace for some time, veterinary staff determined she was well enough to return to the wild, and she was cleared for release on July 7.

“This recent release represents another major milestone for the Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center,” said Jesse Gilbert, Senior VP and COO at the Aquarium. “This is the first time we have been able to return a sea turtle to the wild that came in with such significant wounds. We are extremely grateful for the support of our conservation partners at the Padre Island National Seashore, and for the hard work of our rescue and veterinary teams. We hope to build on this success and perform more such releases in the future.”

Following her release, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle entered the surf and swam out into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico amid cheers from the Aquarium’s rescue team and Padre Island National Seashore staff that were on hand to witness this momentous event.

 

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