Monday, August 16, 2010

Caring for Sea Turtles

Walt Disney World is the new home for eight sea turtles injured by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The turtles are being cared for at temporary rehabilitation facilities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

The eight turtles include two green sea turtles and six endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, the smallest of eight species of sea turtles. Dr Andy Stamper, a research scientist and veterinarian with Disney’s Animal Programs, transported the turtles last week from the Florida Panhandle to the theme park.

In order to care for the animals, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has converted a backstage area into a temporary facility. Engineers and water-science experts have created salt-water pools that can hold up to 35 sea turtles.

“Oil can have a devastating effect on the health of sea turtles, marine mammals and birds,” said Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., vice president for Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives at Disney Parks. “Over the next several months, many of these animals will require intense medical treatment over a prolonged period. We want to be sure that we provide top-notch medical care wherever we can – whether it’s on a beach or in a state-of-the-art veterinary facility. Ultimately, our goal is to re-release these animals so they can once again thrive in the wild of our oceans and coastline.”

According to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, as of July 26, 790 sea turtles have been affected by the Gulf oil spill, with 498 sea turtles dead and 222 rescued. Of those rescued, 173 of those survivors are Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, one of the most endangered of the sea-turtle species.

Most of the turtles are recovering in rehabilitation centers such as those at Disney, which has a long track record working with these animals. Since 1986, Disney animal care teams have rehabilitated more than 250 endangered sea turtles.

This current effort is Disney’s second such rehabilitation effort this summer. Earlier in July, Disney began caring for seven Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles that had been diagnosed with pneumonia. Those turtles were transported from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi in order to make room for animals affected by the Gulf oil spill.

These wildlife rescue efforts reflect Disney’s ongoing work with animals affected by the BP oil spill. Disney’s Animal Programs, and its animal care team, is prepared to send on-site assistance.

In addition, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo & Friends both have rehabilitation facilities that enable the animal care team to treat various animals at Walt Disney World Resort. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, Disney’s Animal Programs supports the rescue and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year.

Disney has also committed funds to the Gulf oil spill recovery efforts. Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), which provides funding to non-profit conservation organizations, has donated $100,000 to environmental and animal rescue efforts. Supported by Disney’s Friends for Change: Project Green, the DWCF has given, to date, $50,000 to The National Audubon Society for their work during the Gulf oil spill and $50,000 in grant money to other organizations.



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