We are saddened to report that the female Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, under the care of IMMS since July 2009, died unexpectedly on December 19, 2009.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was originally found on the beach by the Department of Marine Resources staff on July 24, 2009. The IMMS Stranding Response Team arrived to find the animal very lethargic and unresponsive.
After being transported to IMMS, our veterinarian, Dr. Connie Chevis, examined the sea turtle, and performed several different tests to evaluate the animal. The turtle was placed in a large tub with shallow water to allow her to rest comfortably. Dr. Chevis’ tests confirmed that the animal was very dehydrated so she was placed on a special regimen of fluids as well as antibiotics (for infection). In addition, the animal care staff began supplementing the sea turtle with a gruel mixture, which was fed to the turtle through a tube.
After 8 weeks of care, the sea turtle showed some signs of improvement in her strength, weight, and overall health. She started to move around in one of our larger rehabilitation pools, and began eating live crabs and frozen shrimp. Because of a pocket of air trapped somewhere in the sea turtle’s body cavity, she was unable to dive down in the water. Turtles with this condition are called “floaters” because they are can’t swim underwater, and therefore are unable to forage for food. We were able to overcome this injury by offering her food on the water’s surface. However, our effort to rehabilitate the turtle for over six months could not overcome its serious health issues.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is one of the five species of sea turtles readily found in the Gulf of Mexico. It is known to be the smallest of the sea turtles, reaching a maximum weight of 70-100 pounds. The Kemp’s Ridley feeds on a diet comprised mainly of crabs, jellyfish, mollusks and fish. The species is listed as endangered, mostly caused from human interaction. An estimated 95% of Kemp’s Ridley females have nesting grounds in one of three beaches in along the Mexico coast. In 1947, that population was estimated to be upwards of 40,000. Because of commercial egg harvesting, shrimp trawling, and other human-related activities, the Kemp’s Ridley was nearly rendered extinct, with the population decreasing as low as 200 nesting females between the years of 1978-1991. Today, the number of egg-laying females is now estimated to be less than 13,000.
The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is proud to assist with sea turtle rehabilitation here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. If you would like more information on how you can get involved at IMMS, or if you would like to make a donation to assist with our dolphin and sea turtle rescue/rehabilitation efforts, please visit the HOW YOU CAN HELP link on our home page, or call (228) 896-9182.