Thursday, February 26, 2009

Turtle Talk

Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer Ann Zscheille called the other night to say she was on her way to deliver a rescued juvenile green sea turtle to the Marine Science Center (MSC) in Ponce Inlet. (Bear in mind, this is 90 miles away.) Tammy from the MSC met up with Ann at the Center and started treatment immediately. The following is Ann's writeup:

We have large colonies of these juvenile green sea turtles that forage off the coast of Brevard County. There are large numbers of them near the Trident submarine basin, around the Jetty at Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral and also from South Patrick Air Force Base to Indialantic. The reason there are so many in the Satellite Beach/Indian Harbour Beach area is because we have a near-shore rock reef that supports all sorts of plant and animal life. Since the green sea turtles eat mostly plants, there is plenty of food there for them (such as grasses and algae). I call the rock reef their "preschool", as most of the turtles there are estimated to be about 4 or 5 years old. They are all about the same "dinner plate size" and for the most part are very healthy young sea turtles.
We have many stranding calls for these young turtles in north and central Brevard County. Many of them wash ashore entangled in monafilament or are caught on a fishing hook, as they seem to have developed a taste for shrimp bait! In Dec. 2007, we picked up and transported 21 of these turtles that were alive, but incapacitated by the red tide event we had that year. We also had a large number that washed ashore dead.

This particular turtle, "Ursula", is unique in that she had no signs of injury or entanglement. She did have a large number of big barnacles and hair algae on her carapace. This is an indication that the this turtle was probably sick, as barnacles and algae typically do not grow on their carapace unless they are swimming slowly. When I picked her up, she felt colder than usual for a sea turtle and was quite lethargic. (Ursula was named after STPS volunteer Ursula Dubrick. Ursula was very willing to come down to the office at 5 pm to assist me in the transport of this turtle. She drove, while I watched over the turtle. Ursula had been on call earlier in the day for another possible transport and yet didn't hesitate for a minute to participate in getting the turtle to the MSC as quickly as possible. )
The report from MSC yesterday was that she had a low blood glucose, which is very typical for a sick sea turtle. They use up a lot of glucose just trying to swim. She survived the night after receiving fluids and glucose and being kept warm. We will keep track of her progress and hopefully she will recuperate and be released back near where she was picked up.
(Just got this report in from Tammy: Ursula is still very much in critical condition. We started tube feedings this morning and she is in very shallow water. She was started on antibiotics yesterday for upper respiratory infection. We are monitoring her glucose levels very closely. Not to much more to say about her at this point. It's up to her now. We have been very 3 days we have gotten in 4 live greens, 4 live loggerheads, and 1 dead loggerhead.)
Ann adds some reminders: If you find a sea turtle stranded on the beach, Do NOT put the turtle back in the water. If you are fishing and catch a sea turtle on a hook, do not attempt to remove the hook as it may become further imbedded. If the turtle is entangled in monofilament, do not attempt to remove it. If you are in Brevard County, call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, 321-676-1701.

To report injured manatees, dolphins, or whales, call Florida Fish and Wildlife: 1-888-404-3922.

We thank Tammy for her photos, her expertise, and her dedication. Needless to say, Ann, Tammy, and Ursula (the volunteer) are high on our list of Conservation Heroes! Ursula the sea turtle is in our thoughts.


Amanda said...

Dang I never knew they has such a hard time of it. I hope she makes it and am glad she was found.

Tink *~*~* said...

I am so dismayed to read about poor Ursula - I hope she gets better!

Tink *~*~*
Now Playing at My Mobile Adventures *~*~* : Sanibel Island, pre-Charlie

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the photos and the story. I saw my first sea turtles at Cape Canaveral's Jetty Park, and they were about dinner plate size. Tried to photograph them but they didn't stay at the surface long enough for the camera to focus.