National Aquarium releases two rehabilitated sea turtles

Photo courtesy of National Aquarium

The National Aquarium rehabilitated two sea turtles and hosted its first public sea turtle release since before the pandemic.

Last week, the aquarium released two Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, Bassoon and Cello, at Assateague State Park.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are endangered, are the world’s smallest species of sea turtle.

Bassoon and Cello were among 30 sea turtles — including 26 Kemp’s ridley and four green sea turtles — that were found in November off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The turtles were admitted to the National Aquarium’s Animal Care Center where they were treated for injuries and pneumonia.

Bassoon was one of the more critical conditions of all the turtles. He was inactive and diagnosed with myositis in his jaw. The reptile received a steroid injection into his neck to help his jaw open and allow him to eat properly. Soon after, he began physical therapy and acupuncture.

After months of care, Cello and Bassoon were healthy enough to be placed back into the ocean.

In attendance of their release was US Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who is working in Congress to ensure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the funding it needs for sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation.

“Sea turtles are an endangered species, and protecting them helps maintain healthy ocean habitats,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “The National Aquarium’s work on this front has been pivotal – and the release of Bassoon and Cello highlights their success. We must continue to invest in protecting this species, and I’ll keep fighting to provide the necessary funding to support the organizations that are leading these vital recovery efforts.”

Earlier this summer, Congress introduced The Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act, which Van Hollen co-sponsored. The act “creates a permanent federal grant program to support organizations responding to and caring for threatened and endangered sea turtles,” according to aquarium officials. The program will allow for more funding and “ensure more sea turtles recover and return to their ocean home.”

Other members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, including US Sen. Ben Cardin and US Reps. Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin and Kweisi Mfume, have also supported federal funding for sea turtle rehabilitation.

According to the press release, over the years the National Aquarium has put forth major efforts to increase funding for sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, but there remains a lack of federal assistance for the organizations that support the cause.

“The National Aquarium has rescued and rehabilitated sea turtles for over three decades, but over half our patients have come in over the last eight years,” National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli said in a statement. “The science suggests that sea turtle strandings are only going to increase in the years ahead, along with the costs of rescuing, caring for, and releasing them. Absent sustained and direct federal funding, it is unclear how long non-profit first responders like us can continue to provide this service to the nation.”

In June, the National Aquarium released another musically named patient, a juvenile gray seal named Louis Armstrong, after he underwent 14 weeks of rehabilitation at the aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center.

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