Did you know that the Seattle Aquarium is Washington’s only recognized sea turtle rehabilitation facility? When sea turtles strand along the coastline, they can be brought to our facility and nursed back to health by our expert staff. Such was the case in December, when a cold-stunned Olive Ridley sea turtle was picked up on the south end of Cannon Beach in Oregon and transported to the Seattle Aquarium for rehabilitation.
Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), are found worldwide in warm or tropical waters. They are listed as a “vulnerable species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their globally declining numbers.
“Turtles that strand from chronic cold exposure, like this turtle, are in rough shape because they have been cold for quite some time,” says Aquarium staff veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner. “Their health issues can include organ dysfunction along with severe infections like pneumonia. As the turtle is slowly warmed back up, the organs can begin to function again, slowly, and the immune system starts to fight infections. It’s a delicate balance of managing the homeostasis of the animal while dealing with severe illness like pneumonia,” she continues.
Since arriving in December, the turtle has been under the care of Dr. Lahner and our lead sea turtle rehabilitator, Dr. Shawn Larson, and her staff. Many hours of skilled care have gone into making sure that the turtle can swim, eat and slowly recover from severe pneumonia. “The turtle is getting better daily but is still not healthy enough for travel and release,” says Dr. Larson. “The animal will likely be at the Aquarium for another month or two.” Adds Dr. Lahner, “The Seattle Aquarium team did a great job providing round-the-clock care during the critical time.”
If you see a stranded marine mammal or beached turtle anywhere in Washington please call 1-866-767-6114.