The Prudential Sea Turtle Recovery Center at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo opened last month. The County is partnering with the non-profit Sea Turtle Recovery to operate the facility, which will nurse cold-stunned or injured turtles back to health so they can be released back into the ocean.
“The Sea Turtle Recovery expands our preservation and education programs and will heighten our visitors’ awareness about protecting animals and the environment,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo. “To be able to develop a Sea Turtle Rescue center here in Essex County and help the very animals after which our zoo is named is a great resource to the animal rescue community and fills a great need. It’s a great example of how zoos and animal rescue organizations can work together to save animals and raise the public’s awareness about the dangers animals face.”
Freeholder Patricia Sebold said “This is a marvelous addition to Turtle Back Zoo and is an example of the County Executive’s commitment to make this place successful.”
As water temperatures drop this time of year in the Northeast (Virginia to Maine), especially in Cape Cod and Long Island, biologists and volunteers prepare for an average of more than 570 sea turtles that are stunned by the cold, a reaction that can lead to frostbite, malnutrition, dehydration, shock, pneumonia and possibly death. In addition, sea turtles in the Atlantic Ocean are threatened by fishing line entanglement, plastic ingestion, boat strikes, and loss of natural nesting and feeding sites because of coastal development.
In 2014, more than 700 live sea turtles washed ashore in the Northeast. The facility at Turtle Back Zoo joins eight other facilities in the region that have the capacity to care for cold stunned or injured sea turtles.
At Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, an antiquated building was torn down and replaced with a modern 4,000-square-foot facility. The new building has five recovery tanks, life support systems, and an intensive care unit for more critically injured turtles. Zoo visitors will be able to see less critical patients while learning about the perils sea turtles face and what the public can do to help. Once the turtles have regained their health, they will be released back into their natural habitat.
“Turtle Back Zoo already is a special place where children and families can learn to appreciate animals. Introducing the Sea Turtle Recovery Center helps take our educational programming to the next level and gives us an active role in protecting and preserving wild animals,” Turtle Back Zoo Director Brint Spencer said. “Having the rehabilitation center on site fits into our mission of conservation and expands the potential for animal awareness.”
The Zoo is partnering with The Sea Turtle Recovery, a non-profit organization based in Northfield. The Sea Turtle Recovery is dedicated to the rehabilitation, preservation and conservation of sea turtles. Its current work extends throughout the state educating the public about the ecological role of sea turtles, threats they face, and ways to protect their future. With the opening of the recovery center at Turtle Back Zoo, The Sea Turtle Recovery can begin to fulfill the other portion of its mission, which is to rehabilitate sea turtles for release back into the wild. More about the Sea Turtle Recovery can be found by visiting www.seaturtlerecovery.org.