During the summer, Cape Cod Bay is alive with an abundant food supply, feeding the many marine inhabitants in the area, including the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, who travel north for this food. According to the National Marine Life Center (NMLC), as the winter months approach these endangered turtles are unable to tolerate the dangerously cold water and drift helplessly onto the Massachusetts shores. They battle hypothermia, pneumonia, infection and life threatening injuries during, what is called, the cold-stunning season. During the highest season of 2014-2015, over 1,200 endangered sea turtles were recovered, followed by the second highest in 2015-2016. The NMLC took in 62 of those Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles between these two seasons. In 2016-2017, they were able to take in another 27 for long-term rehabilitation and reached out to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation to help save the life of one turtle in critical condition, who they named Riptide.
Found stranded in Hull, Massachusetts on November 23, 2016 Riptide was transferred to the National Marine Life Center for long term, rehabilitative care. Dr. C. Rogers Williams found Riptide was suffering from severe hypothermia, lactic acidosis and anorexia, all classic cold-stunning symptoms. His carapace (top shell) had extensive areas of dermal bone exposure, leaving him at a high risk of becoming septic and endangering his life. Riptide was placed in an isolation tank for two weeks where he received pain medication and daily betadine shell treatments, along with fluid therapy and antibiotics. Staff also researched and prepared a sticky ointment of medical-grade honey and silver sulfazidime which would adhere to his shell while in the water, giving it a protective coating to promote healing and prevent further infection.
With the financial assistance from the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, Riptide was able to receive continuous treatment and by February, 2017 was making great strides in his health. Staff and marine biologists at NMLC were delighted to see him eating well on his own and swimming without difficulty, but seeing a new epithelial layer re-growing on the surface of his carapace gave them the most encouragement for his future. They moved him to a rehabilitation pool where he could be with the other turtles who were rescued along with him. Riptide was monitored every two weeks to ensure no dead bone remained under the new growth.
On August 2, 2017 Kate Harms, Director of Creatures Focus for ISF, and her family had the honor of attending the release of Riptide back to the wild at Craigville Beach in Centerville, Massachusetts. Organizations like the National Marine Life Center work tirelessly to protect the lives of these turtles and all animals. The NMLC staff, partnered with ISF funding, enabled Riptide to journey back to health and the wild.
Written by Judith Paolercio
Edited by Bob Stone