The Seattle Aquarium is once again providing expert care to an olive ridley sea turtle—and unlike Tucker, a male turtle of the same species who was brought to us in late 2016, this turtle is female. Her caregivers have given her the name “Coral.”
Coral was discovered stranded on a beach near Salishan on the Oregon coast on the evening of October 20. She was quickly brought to the Seattle Aquarium, Washington state’s only recognized sea turtle rehabilitation facility, and has been receiving around-the-clock care ever since. In critical condition when she arrived, she has shown signs of gradual improvement during her time with us. After examining her and performing an ultrasound on November 2, Seattle Aquarium Senior Veterinarian Caitlin Hadfield said, “Everything is contracting and relaxing nicely in the heart, there’s a lot less gas in her intestines, her GI tract is moving nicely, and most importantly her breathing is improving…everything is pretty good.”
Olive ridleys are considered to be must abundant sea turtle species in the world but their populations have been in rapid decline, largely due to human impacts, and they are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Although they are most commonly seen in warmer waters, they are also found further north.
Healthy olive ridley sea turtles don’t often come to shore—aside from nesting season, that is, when females gather on beaches to lay their eggs. Otherwise, olive ridleys may spend nearly their entire lives at sea.
Unless something goes wrong—if they are injured, sick, hypothermic or a combination thereof. Such was the case with Coral, who came to us cold-stunned, emaciated and weak. “Cold stunning” refers to what happens when sea turtles undergo prolonged exposure to water that’s too cold for them. Strandings are most common in the fall and early winter, when ocean conditions shift, increasing the likelihood of olive ridleys getting trapped currents of colder water. As their body temperatures drop, the turtles lose their ability to swim and feed, and their immune systems shut down. If they’re fortunate, like Coral, they get carried to shore by a current and rescued.
Asked why the Aquarium is devoting so much time and care to the life of a single turtle, Dr. Hadfield explained, “Every animal counts—every sea turtle counts. This is not a problem Coral could have addressed by herself. If we’re able to help, we should. And our goal is to get her fixed as quickly as possible and returned back to the wild.”
While quick action is necessary to save the life of a stranded sea turtle, it must be expert action as well. If you spot a sea turtle on a Washington, Oregon or California beach, do not approach, touch or attempt to move it. Instead, please report the stranding immediately to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 1-866-767-6114. The line is monitored 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Stay tuned for updates on Coral’s progress in the weeks to come. Interested in learning more about Tucker, the olive ridley who was rehabilitated at the Seattle Aquarium in 2016 and 2017? Read our previous blog posts:
Be sure to also check out KING 5’s report on Coral: