Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

The fruits of The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program labor were realized with the release of five rehabbed sea turtles including two Kemp’s Ridley and three greens in North Ormond Beach. After months of specialized and compassionate care, the release was a triumphant celebration for turtle caretakers; especially during what has been a record-setting year for sea turtle stranding throughout the United States.

Rescued from a large cold-stunned event off the coast of New England, the Kemp’s were subsequently flown by Turtles Fly Too, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together general aviation and sea turtle conservation, for long-term care at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation Center.

Cold-stunning occurs when cold-blooded animals, like sea turtles, are exposed to unusually cold water and/or air temperatures for an extended period of time; causing a hypothermic reaction that may include a lower heart rate, decreased circulation, lethargy, secondary infections including pneumonia and if left untreated, death.

The two Kemp’s received extended care for persistent symptoms of pneumonia before being released into the open ocean of the Atlantic.

While large stunning events are happening in other parts of the country, turtles in our own backyard are also affected by cold waters and changing conditions; making the efforts of The Florida Aquarium to not only to care for these endangered animals, but also to increase public awareness of the things that can be done to protect the natural environment, even more critical.

The three green sea turtles faced a similar fate off the East Coast of Florida in Volusia County. Rescued by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the turtles arrived at The Florida Aquarium on March 4. A duo was treated for pneumonia and other symptoms of cold-stunning. An additional green turtle was received as part of a record-setting date of March 23 when the team at The Florida Aquarium admitted 17 rescued turtles, the largest number the facility had ever received.

Text and photos courtesy The Florida Aquarium.

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May the Bluebirds of Happiness Nest in Your Yard

May the Bluebirds of Happiness Nest in Your Yard

May the Bluebirds of Happiness Nest in Your Yard

By Andrea L.T. Peterson

It’s been about five years that the Audubon Club of Sun City Center has been aggressively monitoring the area’s bluebird population, which had been steadily declining. Master Naturalist and 12-year Sun City Center resident, Melanie Higgins, explained to me how and why the bluebird population matters and how and why the local Audubon club became involved. Bluebirds, she explained, “are secondary cavity nesters—unlike woodpeckers, for example, they don’t make or find holes in which to build their nests. Over the years, the National Audubon Society approved the design and recommended they be placed at least 300 feet apart with a view to an open field with some trees for cover when the babies fledged. Bluebirds,” she added, “have adapted to using boxes.”

“The club,” she explained, was looking for a way to become more involved in the local community, so they scouted around (pardon the pun) and found a local Eagle Scout group willing to take on the project. The scouts, she told me, “built the boxes. Then the Audubon club put out a call for 20 people who wanted the boxes in their yards. There was a small fee for the boxes (considered a donation to the club).” The hope was that people who spent money on the boxes would be invested in them, that they would help monitor the activity in the boxes, and help the club keep track of the population. It didn’t work out that way.

“While the people were enjoying the birds in their yards, they weren’t monitoring the boxes,” Higgins explained, “so for the first year there was no good data.” The second year, Higgins decided she would monitor the boxes every week herself, tracking nesting, hatching, and fledging numbers. That year, she said, “70 babies fledged.” It seems the primary goals of the Bluebird Box Project to increase awareness of the birds, garner interest in birding, and help increase the bluebird population were being achieved.

My own yard, not an approved space, according to the recommendations, has had success two seasons with bluebirds nesting and sending little ones out into the world! More and more people are seeing bluebirds in their yards or around town for the first time EVER!! It’s pretty exciting to see the spectacular males with their vibrant colors and the no nonsense females protecting and feeding their young.

There are 25 boxes in town now, producing, quite literally, 100-110 fledglings a year. A team of ten monitors the boxes through the summer, keeping track of and recording the numbers of nests, eggs, hatchlings, and presumed fledglings.

According to Higgins, about 30% of the fledglings will survive their first year. One of the greatest hazards, aside from hatchlings too young to fledge, falling out of the nest and becoming “fox food,” Higgins says, is sparrows. An invasive species, not native to the United States, “sparrows literally murder the bluebirds by pecking holes in their heads.”

 “‘The great thing about birding,’” says Higgins, quoting longtime friend and retired National Audubon Ornithologist, Ann Paul, “‘is you can do it any time, any place.’” Our Sun City lakes and ponds and the small islands within some of them provide hours of entertainment and an incredible number of species (ducks and birds) for our viewing pleasure. If you’re housebound you can watch the activity out your windows and enjoy the “sport” without even leaving your bed or your chair!

Take a lesson from the bluebird, whose lifespan is somewhere between six to 10 years: fly when you can, be free, and, says Higgins, “live in the moment!”

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The Florida Aquarium Releases Sea Turtles

The Florida Aquarium Releases Sea Turtles

The Florida Aquarium’s Animal Response Team successfully released two green sea turtles back into the Atlantic Ocean at Matanzas Inlet.

“It’s always a great day when you get to see turtles go back into the wild after being rehabilitated. Izar holds a special place in my heart after all the treatment that he was given and with the amputation of his front right flipper,” said Dr. Lindsey Waxman, The Florida Aquarium’s Associate Veterinarian. “I am confident that Izar will do well in the wild with no issue. Marco was the smallest of the turtles when he came in, so it’s exciting to see this turtle rehabbed and ready to go back to the natural environment.” 

The two sea turtles, Izar and Marco, arrived at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach on April 1, 2019, from Volusia County. The duo was found suffering from cold-stunning, which is when sea turtles are exposed to cold ocean water and air temperatures for an extended period, rendering them immobile since they are cold-blooded.

Cold-stunned turtles are unable to swim and can develop symptoms, including decreased heart rate, low blood circulation, and pneumonia. If they do not receive treatment, cold-stunned sea turtles can be susceptible to drowning, infections, predation, or boat strikes.

Upon intake, one of the sea turtles Izar had a puncture wound on its front right flipper, the injury has unknown origins. The turtle received a blood transfusion from one of the Aquarium’s other long-term patients Banner and its condition quickly improved. In the weeks following its care, Izar also received a CT Scan at Tampa General Hospital to get a better look at the injured flipper. Over time, The Florida Aquarium’s veterinary staff administered antibiotics in hopes of saving the flipper, but it was found that the injury was not healing correctly, and the flipper needed to be amputated. Izar has since completely recovered from surgery and can survive with no issue in the wild. 

After a short period in rehab at The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach, Izar and Marco were cleared for release back into the wild by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the veterinary staff at the Aquarium.

Since opening earlier this year, The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center has taken in 14 sea turtle patients for care. Currently, the Center houses three species of turtle including loggerhead, green and Kemp’s ridley. Since opening in 1995, The Florida Aquarium has rescued hundreds of ill and injured sea turtles. Guest admission and memberships help support these rescue efforts along with generous donations.

New Freestanding ER in SCC

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New Freestanding ER in SCC On May 11, Manatee Memorial Hospital debuted a new freestanding emergency room in our community: The ER at Sun City Center. The new ER, located in front of Walmart at 16504 S. U.S. 301, will expand access to emergency...

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Cygnet Yacht Club AwardsBy Paula Lickfeldt, Photo by Rich Link On May 3, the members of the Cygnet Yacht Club had dinner at Club Renaissance. They had a night of socializing and awarded the trophies that the members had won the month before....

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Our Earth Day CelebrationBy Diane M. Loeffler April 22 was Earth Day. Once again, the local Audubon Club celebrated the day at the West Campus Nature Trails with tours of our own little piece of “the real Florida.” Free fruit, snacks, water, a...

May 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

May 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Check out the Sew’n Sews baby shower benefit, meet the new SCC Activities Director, enjoy Faye McKeown’s art, go Trail Blazing, learn about CA Club facility use, take off in a B-29, clean up with the Boy Scouts, bounce back...

April 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

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In this issue… Mark your calendar for Earth Day, shoot hoops with Senior Basketball, immerse yourself in Van Gogh in Sarasota, hear what ClubLink is planning in the community, catch up with residents who won ribbons at the state fair, learn why...

March 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

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In this issue… We honor standout members of the SCC Security Patrol, uncover a Hoot of a Story, learn how to connect with the Long Range Plan, travel back in time to the Renaissance Festival, play some Games Highland Style, have a Great Time at...