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Turtle Assistance Day 9

Aug 28 2010
by Daniel Gray, DVM

Hello again everybody!
This morning started out with an early triumph as we were arriving for our shift at 7:30am 25 turtles were being moved to another facility, this means they are every so close to being released. We were very happy about this since we were able to move most of our turtles from the single tubs, to outside recirculating systems, or net cages floating in very large recirculating tanks.

Here are two cage systems in a large recirculating pool

Here is a close up of a net containment unit

These are tubs on a recirculating water system

Here is a closeup of the recirculating tub network

Here is our set up of individual tubs set on the floor

This is a good change because the turtles need to be handled less while cleaning and get more space to move around. The previous tubs were a necessity due to shear number of turtles but now we are able to provide more specified conditions for each turtle.

After we completed our typical morning treatments we decided to go out for lunch. We went to a local small seafood restraint and it was amazing food.

After lunch we sat down to interpret a recent batch of 20 lab samples. We get the blood results from the University of Miami, we then compare it to previous results, weight gain or loss, and xray evidence. Each case takes about 20-30 minutes. It is admittedly very tedious and not very exciting but as we discovered it is very important. Two of the turtles received in early August have developed pneumonia. It is possible they already had some level of disease from the wild or picked it up in captivity. This point underlies why we release turtles now. There has been a lot of criticism about releasing turtles back into the gulf before it is proven to be clean. However if we keep these turtles in captivity beyond what they need there is always the risk of them getting sick from the stress of captivity. This is why we try to rehab and release as soon as possible. Rest assured the turtles we diagnosed pneumonia in were caught before there was any change in weight, appetite or activity so we expect a full recovery. Finally just as we were about to leave we learned that a large dead turtle and dolphin were discovered and soon to be delivered for necropsy and investigation. So we stayed a little late to receive these specimens and then turned in for the evening. It will be an early start because tomorrow we need to catch the living dolphin and draw some samples for confirmation of health before release!
Today’s turtle is the Hawksbill sea turtle.

Here is the plastron (bottom shell) of a hawksbill turtle.

Head first view of a Hawksbill turtle

Side view of a Hawksbill turtle

Here is the overhead view of a Hawksbill turtle