Sea Turtle Arrives in Pittsburgh
(Pittsburgh) (July 2011)—The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is the new home for an endangered green sea turtle with a unique ailment.
“A big thanks to FedEx who made the trip possible. Their willingness to step in is invaluable,” says Allen McDowell, Assistant Curator of Aquatic Life at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “They offered us a special flight so that our staff could fly with the sea turtle from Florida and monitor him during the trip.”
Last January, during an unusual cold spell in Florida that stranded almost 5,000 turtles, a juvenile green sea turtle, named Peter Pan, was found floating and cold-stunned near a boat ramp in Sanibel Island. He was rescued and taken to the Clinic of Rehabilitation for Wildlife and then to the Florida Aquarium, where rehabilitation work continued.
Peter Pan has been diagnosed as a “floater”, meaning the turtle is unable to dive and stay submerged very long which is critical for turtles to find safety from boats or predators. This pre-existing condition was the reason it was found floating in the cold water instead of diving to warmer temperatures. “A sea turtle diagnosed as a floater means it is unable to remain underwater for a period of time,” says Josie Romasco, aquarist at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “For Peter Pan, the buoyancy problem is located near his tail and is often referred to as bubble butt.”
Peter Pan will receive rehabilitative care in Pittsburgh as part of the Zoo’s Sea Turtle Second Chance program and the Pepsi Refresh Grant. “Our partnerships enable us to provide injured sea turtles or sea turtles in need of long term care, a place to get well, while coastal institutions such as the Florida Aquarium and others deal with more critical care cases,” says Josie Romasco, aquarist at the PPG Aquarium.
Once Peter Pan is settled in, Ms. Romasco and the zoo’s veterinary team will run diagnostic tests that will hopefully provide a clue as to the turtle’s buoyancy problem. “Peter Pan does have a deformity on this shell but we aren’t sure if that is the cause of the buoyancy problem,” says Mrs. Romasco.
Buoyancy problems are common among sea turtles and can be caused by a number of circumstances like pre-existing injuries from a shark bite or boat propeller, an infection, pockets of gas that get trapped or even damage to the lungs.
“Our goal is to find the problem and correct it so Peter Pan can live a normal healthy life,” says Mrs. Romasco. “It is a day to day process. Of course there is a possibility that despite our best efforts, the problem will not be resolved and then we will make sure its needs are always met.”
Visitors will be able to see Peter Pan in the large tanks near the entrance to PPG Aquarium, joining three other sea turtles, which were rescued from the coastal beaches of North Carolina as part of The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Second Chance program.