This week was a busy one for sea turtles on our coast-and it’s been this way for pretty much the entire summer! On Monday, Houston Zoo staff assisted NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with their weekly beach survey. It was a fairly quiet day in the way of turtles on the beach, but we did happen to see the enormous amounts of sargassum on the beaches which you may have already heard about.
Here is a report from a local news station about the sargassum in our area. While the sargassum may make the beaches less than desirable to visit, they are can be important to sea turtles, especially green sea turtles and plenty of other wildlife! If you venture out onto the beach despite the somewhat smelly conditions, you may be delighted to see some amazing wildlife in the seaweed.
Sargassum is basically huge football fields of brown algae floating in the ocean. When it washes up on the beach, it can help build up the dunes which are great storm protection for us and our homes! Animals like shrimp, fish and green sea turtles love to hang out in these football fields of algae in the ocean-it’s a great way to float around in the busy ocean, and your food is right next to you all the time!
This summer, NOAA has responded to several green sea turtles who have stranded on the beach, in the sargassum. Because green sea turtles are pretty much the exact color of the sargassum, it’s really important to keep your eye out for them if you are driving or traveling on the beach! You can call 1-866-TURTLE-5 if you happen to see a turtle on the beach or in the sargassum. We are still technically in sea turtle nesting season, so if you are so lucky as to see a turtle nesting on the beach (or their tracks) make sure to call the turtle hotline to report it!
After traveling through the huge patches of sargassum to complete our sea turtle survey, we were fortunate enough to be able to release one of the Kemp’s Ridley turtles that NOAA has been rehabilitating. This turtle was caught on a recreational hook and line, and thankfully was reported to NOAA who took it to their facilities to give it a full medical checkup and provide care until it was healthy enough to go back to the wild.
And our turtle work did not stop after Monday’s survey! Yesterday, 11 sea turtles visited the Houston Zoo clinic and our awesome vet team to get checkups. Some of these turtles had suspected hooks and needed x-rays and others were turtles that had stranded and needed to get a routine checkup by our vet staff.
All of the 11 turtles were successfully looked at and suggestions were given by the Houston Zoo vet team for each individual’s care. We look forward to seeing these turtles go through successful rehabilitation and then return to the wild!
If you’d like to learn more about the zoo’s efforts to save sea turtles in the wild, check out more info here.
If you want to help save sea turtles, take these few simple steps (especially during this busy beach holiday weekend!):
-Leave only footprints when you go to the beach. Make sure to put all of your trash in a can and recycle items when possible. Do not leave tents, fireworks, or other trash on the beach-it is harmful for wildlife and dangerous for the health of our beaches!
-Use canvas bags instead of plastic bags whenever you buy groceries or take items to the beach! The Houston Zoo’s gift shops sells awesome durable sea turtle canvas bags, with all proceeds going back to saving turtles in the wild! Reducing our use of plastic in general helps save sea turtles and other ocean animals.