Audubon Nature Institute, in coordination with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), released a rehabilitated green sea turtle into the Gulf of Mexico from Port Fourchon, La., on September 21, 2016.
On April 25, 2015, biologists from LDWF and staff from Audubon Nature Institute responded to the report of a turtle having difficulty swimming in Leeville, La., in Lafourche Parish.
“The turtle was having buoyancy control issues making it difficult to dive down for food,” said Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network Stranding Coordinator Gabriella Vazquez. “It was determined that because he was having difficulty with buoyancy control the turtle needed to be transported to Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center (FMASSC) in New Orleans for treatment.”
Following a full exam by Audubon veterinary staff, it became evident that the turtle suffered blunt force trauma and fractures were most likely caused by a boat strike.
Nicknamed “Bubba” by Audubon animal care staff, the turtle received antibiotics, fluids and rest. CT scans were completed to reveal multiple injuries including a pelvic fracture which had caused the buoyancy issues.
“Weight pouches were designed by staff to counterbalance the buoyancy issues while he healed,” said Vazquez. “They were made from a marine-type vinyl and were fixed to the turtle using epoxy and Velcro. The pouches had three pockets, giving us the ability to add or subtract weight easily.”
After approximately two weeks, the posterior portion of Bubba’s shell was no longer floating up. The turtle was moved to a larger space at the FMASSC for the past year to heal from his multiple injuries.
LDWF leads the response for sea turtle and marine mammal strandings. The Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN), coordinated by Audubon Nature Institute, serves as the primary response partner to collect data about existing animal populations along Louisiana’s coast and waterways and to assist and support researchers in conservation of marine species. CWN is the only entity in the state of Louisiana allowed to rehabilitate sea turtles and marine mammals. CWN has rescued more than 200 sea turtles since 2010.
The public can contact LDWF’s stranding hotline at (337) 962-7092 or Audubon Coastal Wildlife at (504) 235-3005 if they encounter an injured or stranded (live or dead) marine mammal or sea turtle. The public can also report marine mammal strandings through NOAA’s Dolphin & Whale 911 smartphone app for (http://1.usa.gov/1b1kqfv).