NEW ORLEANS — Two endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are swimming in the Gulf of Mexico today after undergoing months of rehabilitation in New Orleans.
The turtles were released off the coast of Port Fourchon this week by Audubon Nature Institute’s Coastal Wildlife Network. The turtles were brought to Audubon after they were found cold-stunned last year off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After initially treated and stabilized there, they were part of a large group of sea turtles brought to New Orleans for continued treatment and rehabilitation.
Cold stunning happens when turtles are exposed to cold temperatures causing hypothermia, it often prohibits turtles’ ability to swim making them susceptible to boat strikes, drowning or additional cold temperatures.
These two young turtles were dubbed Lavender and Habanero by their Audubon care team. Due to their size, they are estimated to be between two and five years old. They are the second group of turtles CWN has released so far this year, several other turtles remain in Audubon’s care as they continue to recover.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest and most endangered of all sea turtle species. Once plentiful in the Gulf of the Mexico, they are now critically endangered due to habitat loss, pollution, boat strikes and bycatch from commercial fishing.
Coordinated by Audubon Nature Institute, the Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) is NOAA Fisheries’ primary stranding network response partner for marine mammals (dolphins and whales) and sea turtles in Louisiana. CWN is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or displaced marine animals in Louisiana and is the only entity in the state responsible for the rehabilitation of live marine mammals and sea turtles. The information CWN collects from stranded animals provides a snapshot into the health of the marine environment and provides a better understanding of threats to marine mammals and sea turtles in the wild.
The public is advised to report all stranded marine mammals and sea turtles (live or dead) to CWN at 877-942-5343.
When reporting strandings, be prepared to give:
• Exact location and/or GPS coordinates,
• Photographs of the animal, and
• Nature of the report (type of animal/live or dead/size, etc.).
Recommendations when reporting a live stranded animal include:
• Put human safety above animal safety. If conditions are dangerous, do not attempt to approach the animal.
• Keep crowds away and noise levels down to avoid causing stress to the animal.
• Don’t push an animal on shore back into the water.
• If the animal returns to the water on its own, don’t attempt to interact with it.
• Leave all entanglements that may be present on the animal.
To donate to CWN and help their efforts to help these endangered animals, visit https://audubontransactions.org/donations/donate-cwn.html.