The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials and volunteers all worked together over the last month or so to rescue an injured green sea turtle on St. Croix and take her to St. Thomas’s Coral World for care, according to Coral World.
Staff at The Nature Conservancy had noticed a serious injury that resulted in the inability of a large green sea turtle to deposit her eggs on St. Croix’s East End Beaches, according to a release from Coral World veterinary technician Erica Palmer.
The turtle had a deep and large crack across the top of her carapace, likely caused by a boat strike. After seeing several unsuccessful nesting efforts and abnormal flipper movements, the TNC staff contacted Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue and they made a group decision to remove the turtle from the beach for a thorough evaluation and medical care. Staff from TNC, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and several volunteers took on the task of moving this large turtle off a remote beach and preparing her for veterinary care and transport to St. Thomas.
Veterinary staff from Progressive Veterinary Care on St. Croix performed an ultrasound and confirmed that the turtle was carrying eggs. The turtle’s size limited the diagnostic possibilities on St. Croix, according to Palmer, so she was brought to Coral World for more evaluation on Sep. 4.
Coral World is also the only facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands that can appropriately house large turtles and that has veterinary staff who focuses on marine animals, according to Palmer.
Veterinarian Michelle Halverson from Canines Cats and Critters took x-rays and performed another ultrasound.
“At Coral World, we provided supportive care and antibiotics and dealt with the infection of her wound over several weeks. Because the turtle was carrying eggs, we were anxious to get her back to the ocean," Palmer said.
The turtle was cleared to be released Sept. 28. Cape Air generously brought a special cargo plane from Puerto Rico to St Thomas to fly the turtle and Palmer to St. Croix on Sept. 30 and Cape Air staff helped with moving the turtle.
“The turtle was successfully released back to the East End Beaches where she was originally found by TNC. The hope is that she comes back to lay her eggs this season and for many years to come," Palmer said.
All sea turtles are designated as either threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. Violations can result in up to one year in prison, up to a $100,000 fine, and the confiscation of any equipment used during the criminal act
Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue is a collaboration of environmental organization, territorial and federal agencies, veterinarians and community volunteers. These groups have collaborated to help injured sea turtles, as well as collect and disseminate information on stranded turtles to better protect the animals.
The turtle rescue program relies on many community volunteers, local veterinarians and other donated resources. Please call the STAR hotline at (340) 690-0474 to report any entrapped, disoriented, sick, injured or dead sea turtle.