Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles make their home in the Gulf of Mexico with the vast majority of this endangered species living in the Mississippi Sound.
A team of experts at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies worked to save one of these rare turtles and possibly generations to come.
“What I’m doing now is travelling down the stomach to see if I can identify it.”
Typically, you’d find a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle basking in the waters of the Mississippi Sound, but on this day, one of these rare and endangered species of turtles landed on the operating table at the IMMS in Gulfport. IMMS Stranding Coordinator Theresa Madrigal said, “It was caught in Gulfport off one of the piers here. The fisherman did call our hotline and let us know. We have a staff here that will respond and pick up the turtle, bring it back – do X-rays, blood work, different diagnostic things.”
It was all hands-on deck at the IMMS in Gulfport as they worked to find just exactly where the hook was embedded and what should be done about it. Veterinarian Dr. Debra Moore said, “It’s important to get this hook out because, as you can imagine, for a turtle, with a hook in there, that’s a major problem and obstacle for food passage. We had a specialist come down from Mississippi State University who is an Internal Medicine Specialist. He is helping us to retrieve the hook.”
MSU Veterinarian Dr. John Thomason said, “The most minimally invasive way to do that is through the endoscope. We are trying to do that so we can release the turtle back into the Gulf.”
The team used a recently purchased gastroendoscope for the procedure, funded with grant money.
In use for nearly a year now, it is proven not only to be a good investment, but a literal life saver and a tool to help preserve our local ecosystem and environment. “There’s no way we could have done it without it. There’s no way we could have gotten down there into the stomach of the turtle, visualized everything we needed to and then be able to have removed the fishhook. She’s a larger turtle, so she’s going to be one, who will go out, be able to nest, and be able to produce a lot more turtles here in the future, so she’s really important. They’re all important, but we want to make sure we get her back into the Gulf.”
The team managed to remove the hook from the sea turtle. If you happen to come across a sea turtle, dolphin, or other form of injured or stranded marine life you’re asked to call IMMS at 888-SOS-DOLPHIN or 888-767-3657.