June 16th marks a very special day for some very special sea creatures—the sea turtle! There are 7 different subspecies of sea turtles, and the IUCN’s Red List notes each subspecies as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Their populations are rapidly declining, but zoos and aquariums are stepping in to lend a helping hand and brighten the future of this species. The new conservation initiative SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction brings together the 229 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, in cooperation with partner organizations, to restore healthy sea turtle populations.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is one of many AZA-accredited facilities dedicated to saving this species by rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured and sick sea turtles. Recently, the aquarium’s Stranding Response Team released 12 rehabilitated sea turtles off the coast of North Carolina, including two loggerhead turtles Harry Potter and Hot Toddy, one green sea turtle, appropriately-named Green Tea Latte, and nine Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.
Harry Potter was injured by a boat before his rescue last August. The aquarium treated his shell and head lacerations and is happy to release him with a clean bill of health! Hot Toddy was initially reported dead last November, but the aquarium staff found the loggerhead severely cold-stunned, and provided dedicated care until his release. Green Tea Latte and the nine Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were also treated for cold-stunning, but were released strong and healthy.
Houston Zoo and Moody Gardens Rainforest and Aquarium also teamed up to release 51 healthy sea turtles back into the wild in May. Forty-nine of these were Kemp’s Ridley turtles, sent to Houston Zoo last December after the New England Aquarium rescued a record 1,200 sea turtles from a cold-stunning event in the northern waters. New England Aquarium enlisted the help of many AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums across the country to help bring these sea turtles back to good health.
Click here for more information on how you can help sea turtles.