NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher caring for injured sea turtles

KURE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is currently caring for five endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. The sea turtles were injured in a recent cold-stunning event in New England.

The Aquarium’s Animal Care Team will provide the turtles with special diets and close monitoring for health complications. Initial veterinary examinations predict positive outcomes for the animals with limited recuperation times. All five animals appear to be juveniles based on their weight, with none exceeding 3.5 pounds.

The sea turtles arrived in North Carolina on Sunday from Massachusetts, where they originally stranded due to a sudden drop in water temperatures in late October. They received initial care from the New England Aquarium, including rewarming, fluids, bloodwork and antibiotics. A total of 25 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were flown south and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) staff transported sea turtles to the three North Carolina Aquariums including Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island.

“Our expert team will provide ongoing care and observation to these animals,” said Aquarium Curator Julie Johnson. “We expect continued improvement with the sea turtles growing stronger and gaining weight.”

When the animals fully recover and conditions allow, they will be released in the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream explained Johnson.

Sea turtles are reptiles and cannot control their own body temperatures. Cold-stunning can occur when water temperatures drop quickly to below 50 degrees. Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic, experience decreased circulation and heart rates, and may die. They are susceptible to respiratory illness, animal attacks, bacterial and fungal infections. Serious cuts and abrasions may occur if the animal is washed ashore.

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, while not a traditional sea turtle rehabilitation center, collaborates yearly with NCWRC, other organizations and aquariums to offer space and resources to care for injured sea turtles.

“As a conservation organization we consider it a responsibility to partner collaboratively and help save these endangered animals,” said Brian Dorn, associate director, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Cold stunning can occur along the North Carolina coast as well. Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.

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