National Aquarium staff release a turtle offshore in Ocean City. Photo Courtesy of National Aquarium.

Aquarium Releases 3 Rescued Sea Turtles, Gears up for Cold-Stun Season

The National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team celebrates three more success stories, while gearing up for another season of turtles needing rescue.

The Aquarium recently headed off the coast of Ocean City with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police marine unit to release three turtles that were rescued and rehabilitated at the Aquarium’s special rehabilitation facility in Baltimore.

Two Kemp’s ridley turtles had been rescued after being found cold-stunned and stranded off the Massachusetts coast. They were brought to Baltimore from the New England Aquarium last December. And one green sea turtle stranded off the North Carolina coast joined the others at the animal resuce center in Febuary They were treated for cold-stun symptoms like pneumonia, respiratory distress, dehydration, and infection.

The Aquarium chooses a theme around which to name all of its rescue animals for a given year, and this year’s theme was cheeses. The three released turtles were nicknamed Halloumi, Mozzarella and Stilton.

To prepare for their release, the Kemp’s ridley turtles, Mozzarella and Stilton, were fed live crabs to practice capturing live prey. Halloumi, the green sea turtle, was a “voracious eater,” according to the Aquarium, preferring broccoli and zucchini while he was in treatment.

Even as the Animal Rescue team proudly releases the three turtles, they have already shifted their focus to the coming cold-stunned season, which begins in the fall when Northeast Atlantic temperatures dip. Already, they’ve admitted two new Kemp’s ridley sea turtles stranded off the coast of Delaware.

Cold-stunned turtles often arrive en masse; the Aquarium has the capacity to admit more than 30 cold-stunned turtles at a time. The Animal Rescue team is responsible for responding to stranded turtles and marine mammals along Maryland’s 3,190 miles of coastline and partners with other rescues throughout the Atlantic.

-Meg Walburn Viviano