From Oregon Coast Aquarium
Solstice the turtle flapped her flippers in water over the weekend. This should be business as usual for an olive ridley turtle, but for Solstice it is a significant milestone in her journey toward recovery.
Solstice arrived at the Oregon Coast Aquarium hypothermic (dangerously low body temperature), dehydrated and starving on December 22. The young tropical sea turtle had ventured far from the warm temperate waters of her normal winter range, landing on a Washington beach where she was discovered by a young couple and then picked up by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Solstice successfully warmed up to her ideal body temperature, 75 degrees, on Thursday, January 1. Staff monitored her condition to ensure she was stable before transferring her to a rehabilitation pool over the weekend.
Her move back to an aquatic habitat confirmed Aquarium staff’s fears; she has buoyancy issues that prevent her from diving below the water’s surface. This is a common ailment for distressed turtles and staff are taking steps to keep her comfortable.
“Her exposed shell is coated with a lubricant so it does not dry out, and we will be giving her some more time in the water to see if the air works itself out,” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry. “If it does not, the next steps would include x-ray imaging and manual removal of the air. We hope the issue will resolve itself before exposing her to these more intensive procedures.”
Despite this setback Solstice is showing signs of improvement. She now has a hearty appetite, eating several times a day, but she seems to have selective taste. “She will chomp down on capelin and other fish without hesitation, but spits out nutrient-packed gel food supplement we offer her,” Burke said.
These latest developments are small steps in a lengthy rehabilitation process for Solstice. Her prognosis remains uncertain, but Aquarium staff harbor growing hope for her recovery.
If all goes as planned, she will need several months of rehabilitation before the Aquarium can plan her release to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Aquarium urges anyone who finds a sea turtle on the beach to keep their distance and contact the Oregon State Police Wildlife Hotline at (800) 452-7888 to ensure appropriate transport and care of the animal.