February 11, 2020

Loggerhead Sea Turtles Recovering at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Three loggerhead sea turtles are spending some time at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for rehabilitation before heading back to their home in the ocean this March.

Sea turtles are cold-blooded, which means they need heat to function properly. When fall temperatures suddenly arrive, ocean water temperatures can quickly plummet. Sea turtles are often found stranded on the eastern shore with dehydration, low body temperatures, and other complications such as pneumonia.

Our Zoo typically rehabilitates the smaller Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles but sometimes we receive larger species such as these loggerheads.

Every year more than 500 turtles fail to find their way back into the Gulf Stream’s warmer waters and are found stranded and cold-stunned.

After the loggerheads were rescued by New England Aquarium, the turtles were relocated to Pittsburgh through the Sea Turtle Second Chance Program. Their first examination showed that all three were in good shape for cold-stunned turtles but they did have various stages of pneumonia, which is common. They were given antibiotics along with fluid therapy, and once their GI tracts were ready they were reintroduced to solid food.

Soon after the turtles settled in here, our veterinary team conducted a more thorough exam which included blood work, x-rays, and a visual exam of the turtles to ensure that they didn’t have any further injuries. Extra assistants were required for the exam because while the smallest sea turtle only weighs about ten pounds, the other two weigh a whopping 40 pounds each.

Loggerhead turtles are not known for their willingness to share. In fact, the turtles like their own space so putting them together in our pools would have resulted in them fighting each other. Luckily we have several pools and each turtle has their own.

Our team will continue to monitor the turtles and once the turtles are swimming strongly, and eating well, they will be given the medical all clear and will head back to the ocean.

Interesting Facts about loggerhead sea turtles:

  • Loggerhead sea turtles got their name because of their large heads which are shaped like a log.
  • They are the largest of the sea turtle species.
  • Loggerhead sea turtles are the most commonly encountered by humans.
  • Their shell size ranges between 33 to 48 inches in width. They can weigh between 175 pounds to 400 pounds.
  • Females will migrate long distances back to the same beach every year to lay her eggs.
  • All sea turtles are endangered. Their populations are being affected by pollution, less food availability, and boat encounters which can severely injure them.