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Guest Blog from Virginia Aquarium
At Audubon Aquatic Center we have a rotating schedule of paraprofessionals that come to assist our staff with the sea turtle and marine mammal rehabiliation process. This week we have had the pleasure of hosting Christina Trapani from Virginia Aquarium (she is in the picture). She is the assistant stranding coordinator with a ton of sea turtle experience. While she leaves us on Thursday, her hard work to our program has really paid off and we are forever grateful. She has asked to blog for her Aquarium back home. Plus I'm sure you all might like to hear something from someone else every once in a while. So please read below a little something from Christina, in her own words.
On Tuesday, June 29th, I departed Virginia Beach for a 10 day trip to New Orleans to help out with the sea turtle patients at the Audubon Aquarium of the America’s Aquatic Center. As the Assistant Stranding Response Coordinator for the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program, I have specialized in sea turtle stranding response and rehabilitation. I am the first person from the Virginia Aquarium to make this trip.
When I arrived at the Audubon Aquatic Center (AAC), I was met by almost 100 juvenile sea turtles of four different species, taking up most of the Center’s floor space. Most had arrived in the past month after being rescued from the growing oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the turtles are Kemp’s ridleys, the most endangered of the world’s seven sea turtle species. There are also greens, loggerheads and hawksbills. Oh, and let’s throw in a bottlenose dolphin that’s also undergoing rehab, just to add a little variety!
After my quick five minute tour of the facility, I was directed to the treatment area to assist the veterinarians with their daily routine of weighing, checking, injecting antibiotics, and drawing bloods. Turtle after turtle became a part of the process with two teams of two people, taking care of these endangered species. The next day, I assisted with feeding and changing water on about 60 tanks. Then the treatments begin again. More bloods, more antibiotics, more administering fluids to those who aren’t eating as much as they should. That’s pretty much the daily routine.
Because of Hurricane Alex, the boat based rescue operations were suspended for the first three days of my stay. However, on Friday, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries called about a turtle that was on its way. It was a juvenile loggerhead that had been found floating about 36 miles offshore. It was not oiled, but definitely in need of help. Lots of fluids, vitamins and antibiotics later, loggerhead #222 began to eat on its second day in rehab (this is a big deal!). It’s not out of the woods yet, but we are cautiously optimistic.
With the assistance of several dedicated staff and volunteers from the AAC’s husbandry crew, as well as employees from other departments of the Aquarium, most of the turtles are eating on their own. However, green turtle #174 didn’t eat anything for the first six days of my visit. It was not interested in squid, shrimp or fish. However, after several days of tube feeding to make sure it got the proper nutrition, #174 took a big bite from a bell pepper! Then chowed on some green leaf lettuce. Seems that #174 is a vegetarian, something you might expect from an adult green.
Hawksbill sea turtles are sponge eaters, so we don’t normally see them in Virginia. But there are two juvenile hawksbills being cared for here. They are both under one pound and absolutely gorgeous. What a privilege it is to work with these animals!
The staff and volunteers here at the AAC are amazing. They have been thrown into this horrible situation, not only being inundated with these animals and dealing with it, but knowing that the environment in their state and in the Gulf is being severely compromised. They all work very hard, yet have been incredibly friendly and welcoming.
I have two days left to help, then it’s back to Virginia’s sea turtle strandings. As this situation is not likely to go away any time soon, I imagine this won’t be my last trip to the Gulf. Keep up the great work everyone!