Vancouver, B.C. – For the second time in a week, a collaborative effort has resulted in the rescue of a southern species from Combers Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. On Saturday morning, Parks Canada officers saved a green sea turtle hauled out on the remote beach. The reptile had been sighted with only occasional signs of movement in its head and flippers. It was transported to Nanaimo and transferred to a team from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which brought it back to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre for treatment.
“Reptiles are cold-blooded and they completely depend on their external environment to control their body temperature,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. “When they get into water that’s too cold they get hypothermia, also known as cold-stunning. Everything slows down: heart, respiration rates, they can’t swim, they can’t forage — they get weaker and weaker.”
Admitted with a body temperature of 11.2 degrees Celsius, the turtle is being slowly warmed by just a couple of degrees per day, until it reaches normal, at 20 degrees or more. It’s received antibiotics, fluids, and care for several wounds on its carapace. The turtle’s sex has not yet been determined.
Green turtles are normally a tropical species found in warmer waters around Mexico and Hawaii, but occasionally may follow a warm current northward and end up in B.C. or even Alaska waters. “It’s something we see more often during years with above-average sea temperatures, such as during an El Nino period,” said Dr. Haulena.
The green sea turtle is designated as Endangered worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. They are not listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, because Canada is outside their range.
Saturday’s sea turtle rescue follows a similar rescue from the same beach last Thursday, of a Guadalupe fur seal, another warm-water species stranded outside its normal range. The sub-adult male is still in critical condition at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
“There has not been much improvement in his condition,” said Haulena. “He’s lethargic, emaciated; he’s still not interested in food. Historically, this species has a poor prognosis once stranded.” In California, where they are more often rescued after stranding, approximately 30 per cent have made it to release.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver and supported by Teekay Shipping, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. Donate to the Rescue Centre at www.vanaqua.org/mmr