Mississippi Aquarium, New England Aquarium releasing joint-rehabbed Kemp's ridley sea turtle
January 12, 2022
Gulfport -- Mississippi Aquarium and New England Aquarium are proud to announce the release of a Kemp's ridley sea turtle that began its rehabilitation process over a year ago at New England Aquarium.
Mississippi Aquarium staff will be releasing an endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle at 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 13. The release will be held on the beach in front of Edgewater Mall on U.S. Highway 90 in Biloxi.
The turtle was one of two sent to Mississippi Aquarium in October 2021 from New England Aquarium. The turtle was cold-stunned in the waters of the Eastern Atlantic, received rehabilitative care that included acupuncture, and underwent surgery for a bacterial infection of the shoulder joint. Thanks to Turtles Fly Too, a nonprofit group, the Kemp's ridley was flown to Gulfport for the next phase of his treatment.
According to Adam Kennedy, Manager of Rescue and Rehabilitation at the New England Aquarium, the turtle, named Typhoon, was rescued December 12, 2020, off the coast of Orleans, MA. The Kemp's ridley sea turtle was affected by pneumonia and anemia, a common diagnosis for cold-stunned turtles.
Last spring, New England Aquarium staff noticed something was off with the turtle's right front flipper. After running diagnostic tests, veterinarians discovered bacterial osteomyelitis—infection of the bone.
"This is a problem that we see in about one percent of cold-stunned patients. It is believed to be caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream during the time that the turtles are very cold when their immune system is not strong. Typhoon was treated for several months with antibiotics before having surgery to remove the dead bone and clean out the joint in July 2021," said Dr. Charles Innis, Director of Animal Health at the New England Aquarium. "We are grateful that Mississippi Aquarium was able to continue the turtle's rehabilitative care and thrilled that it is now healthy enough to be released back into the ocean. This is a huge success story and a testament to the vast, collaborative network of sea turtle rescue partners."
Once the turtle is released, it will bring the total of Kemp's ridley sea turtles under the care of Mississippi Aquarium staff to 51. The turtles will be released as they complete their rehabilitation.
"Mississippi Aquarium is very fortunate to have the capacity and the extraordinary veterinary expertise to care for these turtles," Mississippi Aquarium CEO and President Kurt Allen said. "With this transport, the Aquarium is now overseeing the veterinary care of over 50 critically endangered sea turtles. We are fortunate that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is in their home range, and the goal of rehabilitation is to nurse them back to health and release them into the Gulf as soon as possible. We are very grateful for our partnership with New England Aquarium, and we look forward to assisting with their Kemp's ridley sea turtle conservation efforts."
According to NOAA, cold-stunning is when "sea turtles become very weak and inactive from exposure to cold temperatures. It generally occurs when water temperatures fall below 50˚F (10˚C) where sea turtles are present. Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic and eventually cannot swim, causing them to float at the surface. Wind and tides wash them ashore. If temperatures remain low or turtles are not rescued, they can develop secondary health problems or die. Hundreds or even thousands of sea turtles can be affected by cold-stunning events.
More than 550 live turtles were rescued from the beaches of Cape Cod, MA, during the 2021 cold-stun season. Mississippi Aquarium received several cold-stunned Kemp's ridley turtles in 2020 and 2021.
The threatened Kemp's ridleys' rehabilitation effort is part of Mississippi Aquarium's broader sea turtle conservation program.