SeaWorld Returns 10 Rehabilitated Critically Endangered Sea Turtles to Canaveral National Seashore

March 11, 2022

SeaWorld Rescue Team returning rehabilitated Sea Turtles to the ocean.

On March 4, 2022, the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue team hit the beach to return 10 rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles to Canaveral National Seashore. These critically endangered turtles joined the more than 2,500 sick, stranded, and injured sea turtles rescued and rehabilitated by SeaWorld since 1980.

The Kemp’s ridleys were rescued by the New England Aquarium and National Marine Life Center back in November after being found stranded and cold stunned on Cape Cod. After initial treatment in New England, the turtles were flown to SeaWorld Orlando to complete their rehabilitation. SeaWorld veterinarians and animal care specialists dispense medicine via nebulization to treat and prevent pneumonia, a common cold stunned effect. They also administered fluids subcutaneously to ensure the turtles were hydrated, and provided them with a hearty, nutritious diet to help them gain the nutrients and strength required to heal. After months of care, the turtles were ready to return home.

SeaWorld Orlando is not the only SeaWorld park that participates in the rescue, rehabilitation, and return of sea turtles. All three SeaWorld parks are seeing an increased volume of calls for help. In fact, earlier this year, our team in San Antonio accepted 16 cold stunned turtles from their partners in the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvaging Network.

“SeaWorld and other partners in the Greater Atlantic and Southeast Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network are critical to providing the long-term care ill and injured sea turtles need,” said Meghan Koperski, Biological Scientist at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “The facilities and veterinary teams at SeaWorld provide the high-level of care needed to give these turtles the best chance at survival and a successful return to their natural environment.”

SeaWorld Rescue Team Member caring for a Sea Turtle

Rescue, rehabilitation and return of injured and stranded sea turtles is critical to preventing species extinction.  SeaWorld rescues an average of 140 sea turtles per year due to habitat destruction, cold stunning, illness and disease, and human impact such as boat strikes, entanglement, and littering. 

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are one of six of the seven species of sea turtle that SeaWorld has rescued over the years, along with the hawksbill, green, olive ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead species. The Kemp’s ridley and hawksbill sea turtles are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while the green sea turtle species is considered endangered. Olive ridleys, leatherbacks, and loggerheads are all considered vulnerable or threatened. The only sea turtle species not rescued by SeaWorld is the flatback, which lives in waters around Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. 

In addition to the rescue and rehabilitation work done across all three parks, we are also committed to the conservation of sea turtles through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. To date, the Fund has provided more than $100,000 in grants and support to 10 different projects across Africa and North, South and Central America. The projects include conservation of specific turtle species, rescue and rehabilitation programs, education, and marine debris and nesting beach studies.

If you come across a sea turtle in distress, a hatchling wandering on a road or anywhere other than the water, or if someone is seen disturbing a nest or turtle, the public is asked to call the local stranding network immediately. Contact information can be found here.