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Posts Tagged ‘Kemp’s ridley turtle’

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Photo: Sinclair Miller/Maryland Zoo via the Washington Post
A wheelchair fashioned out of Legos helped this Eastern box turtle, shown in 2018, to recover from a broken shell.

For your delectation today, I offer you two turtle stories. The Washington Post apparently has a thing about turtles, and that’s great. I do, too, remembering fondly long-ago box turtles in Rockland County, New York.

In the first report, Dana Hedgpeth, describes a clever use of Legos to repair the shell of a badly damaged turtle.

“A turtle that had been injured and had a customized wheelchair built for it from Legos has been released into the wild. [The] male Eastern box turtle had been in the care of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. … With a transmitter on its back, officials said they’ll be able to keep tabs on it in its native habitat.

“The turtle’s tale started two years ago when it was found by a zoo employee in the park and brought to the facility. The turtle had a badly broken shell and underwent surgery that involved placing metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire to keep its shell held together.

“Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation and research at the zoo, said … ‘We faced a difficult challenge with maintaining the turtle’s mobility while allowing him to heal properly,’ Bronson said.

“Garrett Fraess, who was a veterinary student and in a clinical rotation at the zoo, said at the time that it was key to ‘keep the bottom of the shell off the ground so it could heal properly.’ …

‘They don’t make turtle wheelchairs,’ Fraess said, so he and a team sketched a customized wheelchair. He sent the sketches to a friend in Denmark who is a huge Lego fan, and she made a wheelchair for the turtle.

“The wheelchair worked because the Lego frame surrounded the turtle’s roughly grapefruit-size shell, and with plumber’s putty it attached to the edges of the upper shell, which got it off the ground and allowed it to move its legs, according to Fraess. …

“The turtle used its Lego wheelchair through the winter and spring of 2019 until ‘all of the fragments were fused together and the shell was almost completely healed,’ according to Bronson. Then they took off the wheelchair and the turtle underwent ‘exercise time’ to build up strength. …

“The zoo has done a project to monitor Eastern box turtles at the park since 1996. They’ve recorded, tagged and released more than 130 wild turtles. The work is used to help conservationists see how the turtles, which are native to Maryland, are doing in an urban setting.” More.

The second article, by Karin Brulliard, is about returning the rare Kemp’s ridley turtle and green turtles to the sea at Assateague, Maryland, a place that (along with Chincoteague) I associate more with Marguerite Henry and her children’s books about miniature wild horses.

“Seven months after washing up on the shores of Cape Cod, Mass., No. 300 stoically scanned the powdery beach while being held aloft by Maryland’s second-highest elected official.

“It was hardly the strangest thing to befall the young Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, a Gulf of Mexico native, since the animal found itself in cool northern waters in November. Its body temperature plunged, making it too lethargic to swim. It was scooped up by volunteers who found it near-dead on shore. It was trucked to Baltimore, then warmed by aquarium workers who named it Muenster and treated its pneumonia.

“The turtle swam in a pool with other injured turtles named for cheeses, and swam some more, not knowing that outside, pandemic-related shutdowns were delaying its return to the Atlantic waters now before it.

“Soon, Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R), jeans rolled up to his knees, placed the turtle into breaking waves as beachgoers cheered this glint of hope at a time of tumult on land. And without a look back, Muenster became the first of 10 Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles to paddle forth on this late June morning into an ocean. …

“Six of seven sea turtle species are threatened or endangered, their populations driven down by development of the beaches where they nest, pollution of the waters where they forage, fishing nets and lines that accidentally catch them, and hunting and trade. But even against that dim backdrop, the trends for those that swim U.S. waters look fairly positive, according to one recent study: Endangered species protections have helped six of eight populations rise.” More.

Lt. Gov. Rutherford of Maryland cares about turtles? That can only be a good thing.

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