GALVESTON, Texas (January 11, 2018) – Nearly 200 Green Sea Turtles
were released off North Padre Island this afternoon after spending
nearly a week on Galveston Island, where they were cared for after being
stranded on the Gulf Coast due to being cold-stunned.
More than 90 of those turtles were housed and cared for at Moody
Gardens since late last week following a dramatic drop in temperatures
that left the turtles stranded in East Matagorda Bay, about 100 miles
southwest of Galveston.
In all, nearly 300 Green Sea Turtles
were rescued along a five-mile stretch of the bay. Roughly 75 were
released Tuesday off North Padre Island with another 185 released
Wednesday. Some turtles will remain at the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Lab on
Galveston Island until they are well enough to be released back into the
“These Green Sea Turtles naturally feed on sea grasses
so they were in those shallow bay water environments when the
temperatures dropped dramatically,” said Greg Whittaker, Moody Gardens
animal husbandry manager. “It is unprecedented to see this many
cold-stunned turtles on the Gulf Coast.”
Green Sea Turtles,
which can be found along the entire Texas coastline, may become
cold-stunned when water temperatures drop to 50 degrees. When that
happens, the turtle’s metabolism begins to shut down and they respond by
expanding their lungs and floating to the top of the water. Doing so
can further expose them as they let colder air into their lungs. Unable
to swim, many are pushed up to the shoreline.
rescued turtles were held inside the Moody Gardens animal holding area
for the past week and ranged in size from 6 to 70 pounds and are 18
months to 9-10 years old.
Moody Gardens helped care for the
turtles in support of NOAA’s rescue mission. Officials chose North Padre
Island, just south of Corpus Christi, as the release site so that the
turtles would enter warmer waters. Another cold front is expected to hit
the Galveston area this Friday, and the goal was to release the turtles
into warmer waters before that happens. The cold front shouldn’t impact
North Padre Island and the surrounding area.
were not ready for release Wednesday. We will continue to work with NOAA
to be a possible holding place to provide some long-range rehab if
needed,” Whittaker said.
After the rescue last week, each
turtle was triaged to separate the ones who were healthy from those who
needed further care. They were measured, weighed and checked for any
abnormalities and wounds. Any that had wounds were put into the sick bay
at NOAA’s fisheries lab, where they have been cared for. Staff and
volunteers cleaned the turtles, scrubbing off algae, removed debris,
grime, barnacles and in some cases, oysters.
Tags were attached
to the turtles’ front flippers. Internal tags were also placed so that
the animals can be tracked in the future, if needed. Several agencies
were involved in rescuing the turtles from local law enforcement,
sheriff departments, constables, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Moody Gardens’ mission has always
focused on conserving natural spaces and resources. This is just a
natural progression for us,” Whittaker said. “If you look at the natural
habitat around Moody Gardens, sea turtles is probably one of the
highest profile species that lives in our native waters and in need of
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