Rehabilitated Endangered Sea Turtle
Released into Gulf of Mexico
(New Orleans, La.) - Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), through their cooperation in the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program (LMMSTRP), released a rescued juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtle back into the Gulf of Mexico on August 21, 2013.
On July 2, 2012, a concerned boater and biologists from Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries rescued the sea turtle that had severe head injuries. The sea turtle’s wounds included damage to the right eye and the upper and lower jaw.
LDWF staff rescued the sea turtle from the bay and transported to Audubon Nature Institute's Aquatic Center (AAC) in New Orleans for evaluation. Three weeks later, the sea turtle affectionately known as “Jaws,’’ was brought to the Louisiana Veterinary Referral Center (LVRC) in Mandeville, LA for surgery.
An external brace was attached to its jaws with the help of veterinary staff from Audubon Nature Institute and the LVRC. Since the brace would not allow Jaws' mouth to open, it was fitted with a feeding tube.
By October, the feeding tube and external fixator were removed. Approximately one month later, the sea turtle responded well to its rehabilitation at the AAC and was moved to Audubon Aquarium to continue its rehabilitation by Audubon staff.
Audubon veterinary staff and LDWF fisheries biologists transported Jaws offshore for its release back into the Gulf of Mexico near a production platform, south of Marsh Island. This location was chosen because platforms are known to harbor various marine life forms and will provide a steady food supply and shelter as the turtle acclimates to its new environment.
“The cooperation between our public, Audubon Nature Institute and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has produced an incredible response and rehabilitation program”, said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. “We rely heavily on the public’s help in reporting these encounters; their help has allowed us to return an endangered sea turtle today.”
Kemp's ridley sea turtles were placed on the Louisiana endangered species list in 1989. They live in sheltered areas along the coast including bays, bayous and estuaries and are considered the smallest sea turtles, usually weighing between 80 and 100 pounds when fully matured.
LMMSTRP is based at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. It is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or out-of-habit marine mammals and sea turtles. LMMSTRP works with other conservation organizations to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles, to collect data about existing populations of marine animals along the Louisiana coast and waterways, and to help researchers develop new knowledge supporting the conservation of marine species.
To report a marine mammal or sea turtle in distress in the Louisiana area, call (504) 235-3005.