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Staff with Rookery Bay Research Reserve assisted in the release of five sea turtles rehabilitated at the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel. So far in August, a female loggerhead was released on August 13, two Kemp's ridley sea turtles were released on August 16 and two more Kemp's ridleys on Tuesday, August 21. We reached out to CROW for details on these patients, and here is what they told us:

Veterinarians suspected these turtles were suffering from brevetoxicosis, also known as red tide poisoning, so they were treated for a variety of ailments associated with this illness. Prior to release, all turtles received a novel treatment for red tide as part of an ongoing study with the Loggerhead MarineLife Center,

  • The adult female loggerhead (#18-2895) was admitted on July 20. She was rescued from the water along the shore of Sanibel after she was found floating. She was extremely weak and lethargic. Since the toxin affects the nervous system, turtles often experience ‘ileus’ in which the food in their intestines is not able to be moved through the gastrointestinal system which can lead to an infection. They can also develop pneumonia from bacteria in sea water that is aspirated into their lungs from uncoordinated swimming caused by the toxins. This turtle was given antibiotics to help prevent/treat these infections. She was also given fluid therapy to help support the liver and kidneys that work to process and secrete the toxins from the body. 
  • The larger of the two Kemp's ridley turtles (#18-3004) released on August 16 was rescued at the north end of Fort Myers Beach on July 26. It was found floating in the water. Red tide affects a sea turtle’s nervous system often causing them to have trouble swimming and diving. A common secondary issue from this is pneumonia due to sea water entering the lungs while they are struggling in the water. Antibiotics are used to prevent/treat pneumonia. The turtle received fluid therapy to help support the liver and kidneys that are working to process the toxins in the body. 
  • The smaller Kemp’s ridley (#18-3010) was rescued at the south end of Fort Myers beach after it washed up under the bridge to Lover’s Key on July 27. It was provided with antibiotics and fluid therapy.
  • Released on August 21, the Kemp’s ridley (#18-3011) with the missing shell piece on its back right arrived on July 28. It was rescued near Keewaydin Island after it was found floating in the water. It was covered in barnacles and had a fractured right hind flipper and missing piece of shell at the right rear of its shell. These injuries, however, appeared to be older injuries that had already healed. The turtle was also anemic and suspected to be suffering from red tide due to its clinical signs. It was treated with antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, iron & B12 injections for the anemia and fluid therapy to support its liver and kidneys that process and excrete the toxins.
  • The larger Kemp’s (#18-3110) was admitted on August 1 after it washed on shore near the Diamondhead Resort on Fort Myers Beach. It received antibiotics nd fluid therapy to support the liver and kidneys working to process and excrete the toxins.

Prior to release, all turtles received flipper tags and a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag. These tags will help to identify these turtles in the future if they are admitted to another sea turtle rehabilitation facility or captured during research studies. The patient ID numbers are given to the turtle when they are admitted to CROW's facility. They are the 2,895th, 3,004th, 3,010th, 3,011th and 3,110th patient (all animals, not just sea turtles) respectively, admitted to the hospital in 2018. Learn more about CROW.

kemps release aug 250

Rookery Bay Research Reserve protects 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters in southern Collier County, which happen to have the lowest concentrations of red tide algae in the county. We are often asked if it is safe to release them with red tide still present, our answer is that CROW works very closely with state officials that monitor the blooms and forecasts of the bloom to determine the most suitable location for release. The level of the algal organisms present in Gullivan Bay are labeled "low" or "not present" which is why this area has been identified as the safest location for their release.

Learn more about the Reserve's marine mammal and sea turtle stranding response program.


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