Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Turtle-associated Salmonella

GateHouse News Service

I thought by now, with all of the publicity it has received, that most people would be aware of the association between small turtles and salmonella infections.

Because it is such a serious medical issue, the sale of small turtles was banned by the federal government in 1975. This ban applies to turtles whose shell measures less than 4 inches.

However, these small turtles are still available and are present in many homes throughout the country. They are being sold in pet stores, flea markets and online. Some are brought home by Junior after finding a turtle in his backyard.

Turtles are also sold by street vendors. Recently, in Baltimore, police seized 96 small turtles that were being sold illegally in the city streets.

The ease of getting these turtles creates a serious health problem.

It has been estimated that 11 percent of all salmonella infections in young people are associated with exposures to turtles and other reptiles.

A salmonella infection can be very serious, sometimes even fatal. Symptoms include diarrhea, which can be severe, requiring intravenous fluids. Also present are vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps.

A recent article reported the largest outbreak of turtle-associated salmonella infections in the United States. Most of the infections involved young children. The majority of parents who bought the pet turtles were unaware of their association with salmonella infections.

To prevent these serious infections, the present laws against purchasing them must be enforced.

The media must give greater attention to this issue and help educate the public about the relationship between turtles and salmonella infections.

Consider yourself now educated.

Most salmonella infections are not due to contact with turtles, but are secondary to eating food that is contaminated with this bacterium. Salmonella is present in the gastrointestinal tract and as a result of poor hygiene, such as infrequent hand washing by people who prepare food, the bacterium spreads to the food we eat.

Whether a person gets salmonella by eating contaminated food or contact with an infected turtle, the majority of times, this serious infectious disease can be prevented.

And if you become one of the many people who suffer from the symptoms of a salmonella infection, you will regret that you did not take the proper preventative measures.

Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From the Center for Biological Diversity

Just months after federal scientists declared that the loggerhead sea turtle is spiraling toward extinction, the Obama administration tripled the number of sea turtles that can be caught by industrial fleets off the Hawaiian coast and increased the catch in the Gulf of Mexico by 700 percent.

The turtles are brutally and painfully snagged on hooks dragged behind massive boats. Worldwide, 200,000 loggerhead and 50,000 leatherback sea turtles are caught each year.

That's why we're including them in our campaign to protect 1,000 species. Sea turtles can't survive this level of entanglement and killing -- especially not to prop up industrial fishing fleets that are also killing hundred of thousands of whales, sharks, sea otters, and sea birds in the same vicious way each year.

Please contribute to the Center for Biological Diversity's Endangered Species Action Fund today to stop the sea turtle killing.

We just filed simultaneous suits in Hawaii and Florida to strike down the federal killing plans. With your help we can see the cases through and reform these out-of-date fishing practices before loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles go extinct.

And right now, a generous donor will match all gifts given by December 31st, so your donation will count twice as much if you donate today.

Loggerheads and leatherbacks are just two of 1,000 plants and animals the Endangered Species Action Fund will allow us to save in 2010. This month we've already launched actions to save polar bears, plains buffalo, golden trout, and salmon. With your help we'll soon take action on behalf of creatures in every state including wolverines, tree frogs, gray wolves, spotted frogs, and Florida panthers.

Saving 1,000 plants and animals is the biggest campaign we've ever mounted -- the biggest campaign in the history of the Endangered Species Act. But with your help, we can save them all.

Please donate generously today. We need to stop the brutal killing of sea turtles as soon as possible.And your gift will be matched 1-to-1 by a generous donor if given by Dec. 31st.

Thanks again for your support,

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director
Center for Biological Diversity

P.S. Check out the latest article by the Honolulu Advertiser on our sea turtle suit:

Suit challenges sea turtle rule change
HONOLULU ADVERTISER // December 17, 2009

Changes to longline fishery rules endanger the existence of loggerhead turtles, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday against the National Marine Fisheries Service

It claims that the Fisheries Service has relaxed rules governing the longline swordfish industry, allowing the fleet to catch nearly three times more loggerhead turtles than previously permitted.

Jim Milbury, spokesman for the Fisheries Service, said yesterday the agency had not seen the complaint and could not comment on it.

Andrea Treece, an attorney for the Center for Biological, said yesterday, "The Fisheries Service has admitted that loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific face a significant risk of extinction unless we reduce the number of turtles killed by commercial fisheries."

The new rule means that the agency "is proposing measures that would actually increase the number of turtles killed," Treece said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Turtle hospital needs $200K amid strandings

BUZZARDS BAY — Work has slowed to a turtle's pace on a new hospital at the National Marine Life Center.

Just as the cold-stunning season for sea turtles has reached a feverish pitch, with a dozen more Kemp's ridleys sent to Boston in the past two days from Cape beaches on top of the record 24 earlier this week, work has come to a halt at the center, executive director Kathy Zagzebski said.

Financial slowdown

The National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay is trying to raise $200,000 by Jan. 15 to finish its turtle ward.

  • Donations may be made at the National Marine Life Center Web site at or by calling 508-743-9888.
  • Donors will receive a membership to the National Marine Life Center.

The center, located on Main Street, is making a plea to donors to raise $200,000 to finish the turtle ward, Zagzebski said. The center has already spent $3.1 million to complete the outer shell of the hospital, but doesn't have the money to connect the plumbing and electricity to the massive tanks that would be used to rehabilitate as many as 30 stranded turtles.

Enough money had been raised to complete the project, Zagzebski said, until it cost more than expected to clean up contaminated soil left behind by petroleum-based byproducts from the property's previous owner.

"There was more contamination uncovered than we expected," she said.

The National Marine Life Center is crucial for rehabbing stranded turtles, said Robert Prescott, director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. More than 60 turtles have already been rescued this season, he said.

"(National) Marine Life Center is critical to capacity," Prescott said. "These are our turtles, they're our responsibility."

But without the ability to send turtles there for rehab, New England Aquarium may have to send them out of state to facilities in Maine, Long Island, Baltimore or even as far away as Florida, he said.

"We're going to have so many turtles, we literally don't have a place to put them," Prescott said. "They would be a key partner in getting them back into the wild."

Zagzebski said the center hopes to raise the money by Jan. 15 so it can bring contractors back in to finish the work. That will take three to four weeks, she said, and the center could still be ready to take its share of turtles once they're out of critical care at the aquarium.

The center is still operating its administrative offices and its educational facility, she said. Already some donors have come forward, including some of the volunteers who work at the facility. A $5,000 donation was made in memory of Daniel DeBarros, a Wareham teen killed in a car crash, and an anonymous donor chipped in $5,000.

Meanwhile, the center can only helplessly watch as the cold-stun season unfolds.

"It's killing me, Zagzebski said. "We are so close to opening the sea turtle ward. My friends are on the beaches rescuing them and my friends in Boston are taking good care of them. I really am trying to get the tanks ready so we can do our part."


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rescue mission aids cold-stunned turtles

Monday, December 7, 2009

Record number of turtles strand on beaches

WELLFLEET --120709-- Mass. Audubon's Michelle Stantinal takes the measurements of this green turtle that was found cold stunned on a local beach. A record number of cold stunned turtles have been rescued off the beaches over the past couple of days.

WELLFLEET - As a cold set in overnight, six more endangered sea turtles were rescued off Cape Cod Bay beaches early today bringing the total from Sunday to 25 - one of the largest, single-day totals ever, according to Massachusetts Audubon Society Wellfleet sanctuary director Robert Prescott.

Many of the 19 turtles will be transported to Boston this morning to join around 90 already being rehabilitated at the New England Aquarium.

These turtles, which include the endangered Kemps Ridley and green sea turtles, should already be headed back to warmer southern waters on their annual migration route, but they sometimes get caught by a change in the water and air temperature as the fall heads into winter.

Their metabolisms shut down and winds push them up onto beaches where wind chill and dehydration can prove fatal.

Audubon staff and volunteers patrol beaches regularly when winds blow onshore and water temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Middle school students find carcass of endangered sea turtle on Quincy beach

The Patriot Ledger

Quincy- When Meghan Caggiano and Emily Van Tassel walk the sea wall at Perry Beach, they usually look down at the water and see no wildlife.

That changed Nov. 18.

The two Broad Meadows Middle School seventh-graders at found the carcass of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the world’s most endangered sea turtle.

Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle facts
  • The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was placed on the endangered species list in 1970. It is now the most endangered sea turtle in the world. Over the centuries, people have harvested the eggs and killed the turtles for their meat and leather-like skin. More recent threats include suffocation in shrimpers’ large nets and ingesting floating trash that the turtles mistake for food. There are 20,000 adult Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles left.
  • Average size: 27-32 inches (smallest sea turtle in the world).
  • Average weight: 75-100 pounds.
  • Diet: Crabs, shrimp, snails, clams, jellyfish, sea stars and fish.
  • Description: Dark gray to gray-green carapace (upper shell), cream to tan plasteron (lower shell), streamlined shells, and appendages shaped like flippers. The turtle’s dark, spotted head and flippers contrast sharply with its pale body.
  • Habitat: They prefer open ocean and Gulf waters; the females only come ashore to lay eggs in sand.
Sources: New England Aquarium; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; “Research and Management Techniques for the Conservation of Sea Turtles”

Full of excitement, they immediately called their science teacher, Debbie Baird, at school to describe their discovery and ask if they could bring it to class.

Another Kemp’s Ridley had been found in dead in Hull on Nov. 1.

“This is very unusual,” said New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse. “In all my time, I have never seen a Kemp’s Ridley turtle washed up on the South Shore.”

While the turtle is uncommon on the South Shore, it is a familiar sight on Cape Cod.

LaCasse said 28 cold-stunned Kemp’s Ridleys have been found from Dennis to Truro in the last week, 20 of them this weekend after the rainstorm.

The Kemp’s Ridleys, which hatch off the coast of Mexico, are the smallest and most endangered sea turtles in the world.

Rescuing a turtle
  • Move the turtle above the high-tide line.
  • Cover the turtle with seaweed and limit exposure to the wind.
  • Call animal rescue personnel or contact the New England Aquarium and leave an exact location as well as a description of landmarks. A rescue crew will come as soon as possible.
Source: New England Aquarium

Baby Kemp’s Ridley turtles, weighing 2 to 8 pounds, migrate as far as New England from Mexico, the Caribbean and the Carolinas to feed on crabs. In late August they swim back south to return to warmer waters.

When younger turtles encounter a strong current, they can have trouble swimming through it. As a result, they can wind up stuck in cold water and dying of hypothermia.

Last weekend, Massachusetts Audubon Society volunteers and personnel walked beaches from Eastham to Dennis and found five cold-stunned Kemp’s Ridleys and one green sea turtle.

The turtles were taken to the aquarium. Once healthy, they will be released into the wild.

Aquarium officials say the strandings are a natural occurrence as water temperatures drop.

The strandings usually start in early November. They have been delayed this year by the unusually warm temperatures.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.