The Florida Aquarium’s Animal Response Team, supported by Florida Blue, offers a story of inspiration and hope in the wake of the ever-evolving situation around COVID-19. “Titan and Starbird,” two threatened loggerhead sea turtles, were released on the pristine sands of the Atlantic Ocean at Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park in the city of New Smyrna Beach.
“Conservation never stops,” said Roger Germann, President and CEO of the Aquarium. “Even though The Florida Aquarium is closed to the public, we are still caring for our animals 24/7, and that means releasing these two sea turtles back to the ocean.”
The two loggerhead sea turtles arrived at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach on December 18, 2019, after cold-stunning and stranding on Cape Cod. The New England Aquarium (NEAQ) facility in Quincy, MA, with the help of aviation nonprofit Turtles Fly Too transported these cold-stunned loggerhead sea turtles by private plane to Tampa, FL. The Florida Aquarium’s Animal Response Team, supported by Florida Blue, picked up the sea turtles from the airport and transported them to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach.
Cold-stunned turtles are often unable to swim or feed themselves and can develop severe symptoms, including decreased heart rate, low blood circulation, and pneumonia. If they do not receive treatment, cold-stunned sea turtles can be susceptible to drowning, infections, predation, and boat strikes.
“Upon intake at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, physical examinations found that Titan and Starbird werelethargic, in poor body condition, and had pneumonia,” said Ari Fustukjian (Fuh-stook-shian), The Florida Aquarium’s Senior Staff Veterinarian. “After three months of good nutrition and intensive medical care, these big guys had healed up, gained significant weight and were ready to go home.”
Titian and Starbird were released back into the wild by staff from The Florida Aquarium, in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The release of these two rehabilitated sea turtles was made possible through the Aquarium’s ongoing partnership with Florida Blue as well as the direct support of The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who has authorized The Florida Aquarium to treat sick or injured endangered sea turtles.
To learn more about The Florida Aquarium’s sea turtle conservation efforts, visit https://www.flaquarium.org/seaturtles.
To stay connected to the programs and animals, while also having some fun, the public can virtually adopt a sea turtle and other animals under The Florida Aquarium’s care at https://www.flaquarium.org/adoptananimal.
All care and turtle rehabilitation by The Florida Aquarium is done with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to marine turtles and authorized under conservation activities pursuant to FWC MTP-19-179.