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Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologists Rescue First Oiled Sea Turtle Team of Veterinarians Cleans, Rehabilitates Turtle

BATON ROUGE (May 19, 2010) - A Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was recovered by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists late last night after the animal was spotted by biologists in oily waters off the coast of Louisiana.

According to LDWF biologists, the exterior of the turtle was heavily oiled. Oil samples collected from the sea turtle are currently being tested to determine if the oil is from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This Kemp’s Ridley is the first rescued oil-impacted sea turtle reported and was discovered approximately 33 nautical miles offshore. Biologists spotted the barely two-pound turtle around 6 p.m. in the Gulf of Mexico.  After loading the turtle onto an LDWF vessel, he was transported to shore and brought to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services headquarters building in Venice, La.  LDWF biologists then transported the turtle by truck to the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program in New Orleans.

“Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles were placed on the Louisiana endangered species list in 1989, so it is very important that we rescue and rehabilitate those sea turtles we find that have been affected by the Gulf oil spill,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham.  “Our department conducts several daily beach and water surveys looking for any distressed marine mammals, sea turtles or other wildlife.  In recent years, the Kemp’s population has slowly started to recover, so we hope to mitigate any decline in this species due to the oil spill.”

For pictures of the oiled sea turtle from Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program, visit: http://bit.ly/dp0j9J

The baby Kemp’s Ridley was examined by Audubon Nature Institute veterinarians and oil and blood samples were taken. The turtle was transferred to the wash station where it received a thorough cleaning with Dawn soap and a toothbrush.

The turtle will be observed by staff until it receives a bill of clean health from Audubon Nature Institute veterinarians. Then the turtle will be kept at a facility for holding until the Gulf of Mexico is deemed safe enough for release.

“Audubon Aquarium is proud is to be the coordinating facility for the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.” says Michele Kelley. “It is a great privilege to work with all the organizations from around the state and country to provide the greatest care possible to marine animals such as the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.”

Kemp's Ridley and are listed as the most critically endangered sea turtle.  All species of sea turtles are considered endangered or threatened. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles live in sheltered areas along the coast including bays, bayous and estuaries and are considered the smallest sea turtles, usually weighing between 80 and 100 pounds when fully matured.

The Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program is a volunteer organization based at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The group is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or out-of-habit marine mammals and sea turtles. The program works with other conservation organizations to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles to collect data about existing populations of marine animals along the Louisiana coast and waterways, and to help researchers develop new knowledge supporting the conservation of marine species.



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