CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, June 8 (Reuters) – Endangered sea turtles and other marine wildlife have found refuge in a new coastal rescue center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Threatened by erratic weather patterns, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, birds and other animals are rescued and rehabilitated by the Texas State Aquarium’s Port of Corpus Christi Center before being released back into the wild.
The 26,000-square-foot hospital, which opened in March, is the largest rescue center for sea turtles in the United States, and operates a special CT scanner dedicated to wildlife to take images of the rescued animals.
It has already responded to multiple cold-stunning events – a sharp, prolonged drop in air and water temperatures that immobilizes the sea turtles in shallow waters, and prevents them from reaching warmer water.
Like other reptiles, sea turtles are limited in how much they can regulate and control their core body temperatures.
A juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle recovering from pneumonia was one of five rescued in January from a New England cold-stunning event, according to the wildlife center’s head veterinarian Dr. Carrie Ullmer.
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the smallest species of sea turtle and most critically endangered in the world, according to the National Park Service.
Ullmer explained how cold-stunning events cause sea turtles’ heart and respiratory rates to drop dangerously low, along with a dramatic slowdown of their metabolisms.
Ullmer readied one of the rescue turtles to check for recurrence of abnormalities on the CT scan. The turtle lay on a small tray while the scanner moved above him.
“We find that our patients tolerate that very well because they’re not actually moving during the CT scan,” said Ullmer. “So you’ll see with some of these turtles, we don’t even have to sedate them or anesthetize them to be able to perform the scan.”
Later that day, a juvenile green sea turtle rescued from South Texas waters during a December 2022 cold-stunning event was released into Gulf of Mexico waters at Laguna Madre.
Wildlife care specialist Giovanna Pena said the green sea turtle had fully recovered in four months and was ready to forage for algae, seagrasses and other vegetation in the wild.