Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network's "Krewe of Turtles" Prepares for Their Return to the Wild
Even though Mardi Gras Krewes are not rolling this year, there is a flippered “krewe” that will be parading out to the Gulf of Mexico in the coming weeks.
Nineteen of the 28 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles being rehabilitated by Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) team will soon be released along the Grand Isle shoreline as the first group to return to the wild. CWN will release the remaining turtles in additional phases determined by their health.
The turtles arrived at Audubon as part of a massive cold-stunning event along the New England coast in November 2020. CWN staff created highly individualized treatment plans for each turtle and have been monitoring them intensively.
In celebration of Carnival season, Audubon's rescued sea turtles have been named after iconic Mardi Gras krewes and marching groups.
The first krewe of turtles being released are named: Tucks, Rex, Zulu, Iris, Babylon, Thoth, Endymion, Chaos, Vieux, Themis, Muff-a-lotta, Stomper, Athena, Carrollton, Siren, Pandora, Proteus, St. Aug, and Pete Fountain.
The remaining turtles to be released in the upcoming phases include: Bacchus, Orpheus, Muses, Chewbacchus, Okeanos, Atlas, Argus, Nymph, and Fleurs.
CWN staff named some of the turtles to match their distinctive traits -- for example, Chaos is known to be a chaotic messy eater, and, like the parade, Bacchus is one of the largest turtles of the group. Muses suffered from frostbite on his flippers upon intake and had flipper wraps that resembled shoes post-surgery.
“The turtles have progressed extremely well in their rehabilitation,” said Audubon Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding, Rescue, and Rehab Coordinator Gabriella Harlamert. “We have now switched to oral antibiotics, which is a huge milestone because we are confident the turtles will eat every day. We also are not having to handle the turtles as much, which is what we strive for when rehabbing animals.”
CWN identified the first krewe of turtles for release because of how well they have recovered from their medical issues. Release, however, is pending a final exit examination by the Audubon veterinary team and the Gulf of Mexico’s water reaching a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The turtles not in the first release will remain at Audubon Aquatic Center and continue to follow highly individualized treatment plans to treat pneumonia of varying degrees of severity.
Of the 30 cold-stunned turtles sent to Audubon for rehabilitation, two were lost due to infection and pneumonia. Sadly, this is common among cold-stunned turtles, but the CWN team is hopeful that the rest of the Krewe will be out parading in the wild soon enough.
Coordinated by Audubon Nature Institute, CWN serves as NOAA Fisheries' primary marine mammal and sea turtle stranding network partner in Louisiana.
CWN is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or displaced marine animals in Louisiana and is the only entity in the state responsible for the rehabilitation of live marine mammals and sea turtles. The information CWN collects from stranded animals provides a snapshot into the health of the marine environment and provides a better understanding of threats to marine mammals and sea turtles in the wild.
The public is advised to report all stranded marine mammals and sea turtles (live or dead) to CWN at (504) 235-3005.
When reporting strandings, the public should be prepared to give:
- Exact location and/or GPS coordinates,
- Photographs of the animal, and
- Nature of the report (type of animal/live or dead/size, etc.).
Recommendations when reporting a live stranded animal include:
- Put human safety above animal safety. If conditions are dangerous, do not attempt to approach the animal.
- Keep crowds away and noise levels down to avoid causing stress to the animal.
- Don't push an animal on shore back into the water.
- If the animal returns to the water on its own, don't attempt to interact with it.
- Leave all entanglements that may be present on the animal.
Though the COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating financial impact on Audubon Nature Institute, it remains committed to going above and beyond to help animals in need. The public can help these turtles and many more marine animals like them by supporting Audubon's continued work to protect and preserve the natural world by donating at https://audubonnatureinstitute.org/seaturtles.
Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.