It was a terrible day to have forgotten sunscreen. Galveston bay was calm, the beach was empty, but it was still a terrible day to have forgotten sunscreen…
However, for 13 sea turtles it was a great day(They don’t need sunscreen, but that’s not why). On Friday, May 31, with much help from the NOAA sea turtle folks, 13 sea turtles were returned to the wild. One of the 13 had been rehabilitated by our incredible aquarium team right here at the Houston Zoo.
Sea turtles face many dangers in the wild. Boat propellers, fishing hooks, shrimp nets, and more all pose a serious risk for the sea turtles. Of the 13 that were released, some had been caught by fisherman, some had washed up on shore, and one had a particularly interesting story unlike one we’d ever experienced.
The Houston Zoo received a call from a man who was certain that a sea turtle was living in a small pond in his neighborhood. Because sea turtles are salt water creatures, this was obviously either a big hoax, or a big problem for the turtle. Either way, we had to check it out.
After confirming that a (very sick) green sea turtle was living in the neighborhood pond, NOAA staff picked him up and brought him to the Zoo in order to fully assess his health and probability for survival. During the medical examination, it seemed that he had been subjected to the freshwater pond for a while, and the fact that he was still alive was very surprising. We think that a fisherman might have caught the turtle while fishing in the bay, brought him home to show the kids or family, and then dumped him in the local pond . We must note that we aren’t entirely sure how he ended up in a pond, but this was our best guess.
Back at the Houston Zoo, there were problems. A weak green sea turtle was desperately holding on. The outlook was bleak, but Dr. Joe Flanagan had a plan. He began by adjusting the salinity of the sea turtle’s water to match the blood plasma of that turtle. In doing this, Dr. Joe had established a baseline salinity to work from. By slowly increasing the salinity over a long period of time, he was able to incrementally bring the sea turtle back to a healthy measure of salt water. While we didn’t go as in depth as we’d like to, there was much more veterinary care that went into nursing this green sea turtle back to health.
Fast forward past recovery time, and there we were standing on the beach looking at this beautiful green sea turtle who was about to get a second chance.
We started the day with releasing the green sea turtles into Christmas Bay. Green sea turtles forage in the shallow waters of Christmas Bay. It was time to release the sea turtle from the Houston Zoo aquarium as he was now healthy, and anxious to explore the wild again. We really appreciate all the hard work that our aquarium staff put into helping him! Even some local fisherman stopped to watch the release.
After the greens were safe and back into the water, we took a short drive to the beach where the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were to be released. This particular species eats crab and other species in the open ocean, so they are better acclimated to be released on the beach.
All 13 turtles were successfully released and looked very strong in the water. We hope that they will go on to live happy lives and create lots of sea turtle babies. Look for more sea turtle information and updates in the future!