Endangered tropical turtle found ‘cold-stunned’ in B.C. waters

Endangered tropical turtle found ‘cold-stunned’ in B.C. waters

An endangered sea turtle from the tropics has been found a long way from home and in frigid waters near Port Alberni, B.C. 

The olive ridley sea turtle, nicknamed Berni after the community it was found in on Monday, had a body temperature of just 11 C, nine degrees colder than its ideal body temperature, according to the Vancouver Aquarium.

The adult, male turtle was hypothermic or cold-stunned, said head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.

 When that happens, a turtle’s heart and respiration rate will slow and it becomes unable to swim or look for food, a statement from the aquarium said. 

The turtle is currently being treated at the aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

“Once he’s stronger and showing signs of responsiveness, staff will place him in a pool set at the same temperature as his body for short periods of time,” said rescue centre manager Lindsaye Akhurst in a news release.

“Berni has a long road to recovery but he is responding to treatment,” she said. 

Rescuers at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre are trying to nurse the olive ridley sea turtle back to health, after it was found far from home in B.C. on Sept. 20, 2019. (Vancouver Aquarium)

It’s still not clear why the turtle showed up so far north. The aquarium said it’s only the fourth of its species to be recorded in B.C. waters.

The green turtles can typically be found in the Gulf of California, as well as reefs in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Central and South America. 

Haulena said it could be due to a warm area of water in the Pacific Ocean called the blob or higher than average sea temperatures in general.  

Olive ridley sea turtles are fairly abundant worldwide but are considered vulnerable because they nest in only a few places, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. 

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