TEXAS STATE AQUARIUM WILDLIFE RESCUE TEAM SUCCESSFULLY TREATS AND RELEASES OVER 275 COLD-STUNNED SEA TURTLES
January 25, 2024
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Following the severe cold front on January 15th that sent temperatures in South Texas plummeting below freezing, the Texas State Aquarium Port Corpus Christi Center for Wildlife Rescue activated its emergency plans and protocols in response to a sea turtle cold-stunning event. Between January 16th and January 19th, the Center for Wildlife Rescue received 323 cold-stunned green sea turtles.
The drastic temperature drop rendered many sea turtles in the Laguna Madre and nearby shallow bays lethargic and unable to swim. As cold-blooded animals, these sea turtles depend on environmental heat. The sudden cold left them vulnerable to health issues, including pneumonia and injuries from collisions with rocks.
Anticipating this event, the Aquarium’s wildlife rescue and operations teams had been preparing emergency pools since January 2nd, readying for the influx of cold-stunned sea turtles. Furthermore, the Aquarium and Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) embarked on a comprehensive communications plan, including social media outreach, to educate the community about the cold-stunning event and guide interactions with affected sea turtles.
Upon the sea turtle’s arrival at the Center for Wildlife Rescue, each turtle was assessed and promptly treated for cold-stunning and associated conditions by the Aquarium’s team. Following their health evaluations, treatments specific to cold-stunning were initiated. Depending on their condition, some turtles were temporarily placed in a warming room. They remained there until they regained enough strength to breathe independently and were ready for transfer to the rehabilitation pools. Meanwhile, other turtles were directly transferred to the rehabilitation pools, where they stayed until the waters of the Gulf had warmed sufficiently to ensure their safe return. For those requiring additional care, admission to the Sea Turtle Hospital at the Center for Wildlife Rescue was arranged for extra monitoring and treatment.
The quick and intense care provided by the Aquarium’s team yielded positive results for the sea turtles. By January 23rd, over 275 rehabilitated green sea turtles had recovered sufficiently and were released back into their natural habitat. This release, conducted at Padre Island National Seashore, was a collaborative effort between Aquarium and PAIS staff, returning the turtles to the Gulf of Mexico.
The sea turtles that needed additional treatment will continue to receive specialized care at the Sea Turtle Hospital. The Aquarium is pleased to invite the public to observe and learn about our ongoing efforts to rehabilitate these sea turtle patients. The Center is open for visitors during our regular operating hours, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. This is a unique opportunity for community members to engage with and understand the vital work being done to protect and preserve these incredible marine animals.
“Thanks to our steadfast partnership with Padre Island National Seashore, we’ve been able to illustrate our shared commitment to conservation and emphasize the critical role of community support,” said Texas State Aquarium President and Chief Executive Officer Jesse Gilbert. “The rapid response to this cold-stunning event underscores the Texas State Aquarium’s unwavering commitment to protecting and preserving Texas wildlife.”
The Aquarium would like to extend special thanks to Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas Sealife Center, and The Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), for their essential collaboration in the rescue, documentation, and transportation of the turtles.
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