THE MARINE ANIMAL RESCUE PROGRAM (MARP)
OF THE NATIONAL AQUARIUM IN BALTIMORE
Š Patient ID#: NAIB0513Lk
Š Common Name: Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
Š Scientific Name: Lepidochelys kempii
Š Age: Juvenile
Š Sex: Unknown
What is MARP? The Marine Animal Rescue Program is the cornerstone of the Conservation Department’s Ocean Health Programs. MARP is federally authorized to rescue, rehabilitate and release stranded marine mammals and sea turtles. An animal is considered “stranded” if it is an injured, ill, or out of its habitat and cannot return to the water and care for itself on its own. Through stranding response, we strive to improve our understanding of ocean health and in turn, promote stewardship of the ocean and coastal environment. With each case, we improve our understanding of marine mammals and sea turtles and the impact humans are making on their lives.
NAIB0512Lk History: This Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle stranded on Kingsbury Beach in Eastham, Massachusetts on December 5th, 2004. The turtle was taken to the New England Aquarium (NEAq) stranding facility in Boston, Massachusetts. The animal was admitted as a “cold-stunned” turtle, meaning it had become hypothermic, entering a comatose-like state. Turtles are susceptible to cold-stunning as they are “cold-blooded” and cannot regulate their internal temperature. As the temperature of the water surrounding them rises or falls so does their body temperature. To treat this condition, the body temperature must be gradually raised (a few degrees a day).
The turtle was transferred from New England Aquarium to the National Aquarium in Baltimore on April 26, 2005 for continued rehabilitation. While at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, an old carapace (back shell) fracture was found on radiograph or X-ray. The injury was most likely the result of a boat strike which often occurs as turtles must come to the surface to breath and it is often difficult for boaters to see them. The fracture continued to heal with routine wound cleaning and debridement
The turtle was released off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland on August 24th, 2005. Turtles are present in the mid-Atlantic area through the summer into early fall while the water temperatures are at their warmest (approximately 70° F and higher). Prior to release, a satellite tag was affixed to the carapace (made of a keratin- like protein)of the turtle. The tag allows for post release monitoring and will eventually fall off as the scutes (individual plates of the shell) continually slough and are replaced. Satellite tags provide valuable information on the migration and behavior of animals after release, allowing us to determine the success of the release.
Why was the turtle transferred from NEAq?: Although our primary response area is the Delmarva Peninsula, as a partner in the Northeast Region of the National Stranding Network we often collaborate with other facilities on stranding cases so that as a group, we can provide the best possible care for every animal. It may be necessary to transport animals between facilities during rehabilitation to ensure the continued progress of the animal. Furthermore, due to factors such as pool size, and animal capacity as well as logistics such as releasing the animal in the appropriate geographic location for the time of year, animals are sometimes transported between facilities. These factors are also taken into consideration when an animal is being rescued from the beach, animals will be transported to the facility that can provide the best chance for a successful rehabilitation and release, which may not be the closest one to the stranding site.
Why attach a satellite tag?: Satellite tags provide information ranging from the geographical location and ambient conditions of the animal, to the length and depth of the animal’s dives. Analyzing this data allows for the determination of whether the animal is thriving or not. For example, we can track the animal’s movements and compare them to where we would expect to find conspecifics (others of the same species). The diving information will further help to determine if the animal is spending the appropriate amounts of time at depths where it is likely to find food items. The determination of success or failure of a released animal provides feedback necessary to institute changes to protocols and procedures to increase the chances of successful releases.