WEST ORANGE, NJ — A 200-plus pound loggerhead sea turtle named Tammie is receiving treatment for propeller scars and other injuries at Sea Turtle Recovery’s facility at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange. After the turtle was stabilized with fluids and transported to the facility with help from the West Orange Fire Department, Sea Turtle Recovery staff removed 38 pounds of barnacles, algae, mussels, mud and other organisms off the 214-pound sea turtle.
“Tammie is the largest loggerhead our nonprofit has cared for thus far, and thanks to all of the support and groups that came together, she now can focus on getting better,” Sea Turtle Recovery’s co-executive officer Bill Deerr said in a press release.
After the majority of debris was removed, staff found five old and partially healed propeller cuts, as well as injuries to the turtle’s front flippers. At this point, there does not appear to be any neurological damage. Blood work and radiographs will provide more information about Tammie, who is stable and recovering.
“Rehabilitation takes time, care and support from the public. Sea turtles have real fight, so we are optimistic that Tammie will make a full recovery,” co-executive officer Brandi Biehl said in the release.
The floating turtle was spotted on Monday, June 12, by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Lawrence Lawson approximately 3 miles east of Cape Henlopen, near Lewes, Del. After reporting the turtle to experts at the Marine Education, Research, and Rehabilitation Institute and NOAA Fisheries, the crew monitored the turtle until they were able to get help from MERR responders to capture the turtle. Once on board, the sea turtle was evaluated and stabilized by staff from Sea Turtle Recovery, who had joined the rescue effort.
“It took a lot of coordination and teamwork between the Lawson crew, MERR and Sea Turtle Recovery to rescue the turtle,” Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Rizzo, commanding officer of the Lawrence Lawson, said in the release. “It’s a great feeling for the crew to know that we had a part in saving an animal in jeopardy of becoming endangered.”
According to NOAA Fisheries, sea turtles are frequently found with injuries from boat strikes.
“All sea turtles in U.S. waters are threatened or endangered,” Kate Sampson, Sea Turtle Stranding and Disentanglement coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, said in the release. “Propeller scars are common injuries we see. If you’re out on the water, we ask that people go slowly, especially in areas where sea turtles may be feeding — such as areas with seagrasses, crabs and mollusks. If you see jellyfish at the surface, keep a look out for leatherbacks, too.”
In total, more than six organizations and countless individuals joined together to help this injured reptile.
“With endangered and threatened species going extinct every year, it is inspiring to know that there is a strong passion and commitment within us all to make sure these animals have a future,” Deerr said.
After hearing the story that unfolded, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said: “This demonstrates what a dynamic facility Sea Turtle Recovery is. Not only are turtles being cared for and rehabilitated, but it’s an opportunity to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers these reptiles face.”
Tammie’s recovery will be a long process, but Sea Turtle Recovery hopes for a final release back into the ocean. They plan to continue notifying the public about Tammie’s recovery through their Facebook page and inside their public space at the Turtle Back Zoo.
If you see a sea turtle in trouble, report it to NOAA’s Marine Animal Reporting Hotline at 866-755-6622. For more information about Tammie and Sea Turtle Recovery, call 609-667-4076 or visit www.seaturtlerecovery.org.