Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry, and his team at the Oregon Coast Aquarium have been busy tending to the 135 lb. Green turtle that washed up near Moolach Shores last week. The turtle’s body temperature was 58 degrees. That, and the slow heart rate, as well as the lack of trauma to the turtle’s body, led Jim to conclude that the turtle was a victim of –wait for it—hypothermic stunning. More about that in a few paragraphs.
The turtle’s blood was shipped to Kansas because –well– not everyone knows how to do reptile bloodwork. The report, as expected, showed severe dehydration; also, some other indicators looked “wonky.”
Nothing can happen fast with a cold reptile. As hydrating fluids have been given through IV’s, Jim has slowly brought the turtle’s temperature up to 74 °F, an increase of 16° in the week since the turtle was carried off the sand. (Yes, you measure a turtle’s temperature as you’d imagine–through the cloaca.) With this turtle, everything is about temperature. The Oregon Coast is way off the turtle’s regular path; he belongs much further south. Jim speculates that this guy rode a “cell” of warm water north, and when the “cell” dissapated, the turtle found himself in a large body of very cold water; the result was hypothermic stunning. (You knew I’d get back to that term, because it’s just too good.)
As much as he’d like to, Jim can’t put this wild turtle on an flight from PDX to San Diego secure a happy ending to this story, at least not yet. First, the turtle’s health was and is extremely fragile. Hypothermia often creates lasting damage, which we’ll explore in a later update. Second, wild animals often cannot handle the stress of captivity, even when everyone is trying to help them back into the wild. Nevertheless, Jim hopes to see enough recovery book this chelodon on a one-way Southwest Airlines flight to Sea World San Diego for more rehabilitation. No ideas on time frame, as we’re all on turtle time.
While we wait, can you help me with this Green turtle puzzle? After 40 minutes, I still can’t finish. I can get the turtle, but that dang border is giving me trouble. You might say that I’m progressing at a turtle’s pace.
More updates as we hear from Jim. Are there questions you’d like to ask? I’ll pass them along.