An endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle is recovering after being rescued in Port Alberni on Monday.
Usually found in tropical and subtropical waters, the adult male’s body temperature was dangerously low.
The 29.6 kg turtle nicknamed Berni appeared to be “cold-stunned,” said Ocean Wise head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena
Its body temperature was just 11 degrees Celsius, far below its ideal of over 20 degrees.
Haulena says that because sea turtles are cold-blooded, they depend entirely on their environment to control their body temperature. When that environment is too cold, sea turtles get hypothermic, leaving them unable to swim or forage.
The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre says the plan is to gradually raise his temperature by slowly increasing the ambient temperature of the hospital.
Berni is also being treated with antibiotics.
“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 Lindsaye Akhurst of the MMRC.
“Berni has a long road to recovery but he is responding to treatment. Once he’s stabilized, we will work closely with Canadian and U.S. authorities to get the permits that allow him to be released, in warmer waters.”
It is only the fourth Olive Ridley sea turtle recorded in B.C. waters.
Dr. Haulena says one possible reason for the sea turtle to find itself in such unfamiliar waters is what’s known as “the blob.”
It is a warmer-than-usual area of water located in the Pacific Ocean, just off the west coat of North America. Sea turtles from Mexico and Central America sometimes ride warmer water currents into the cooler B.C. coastal region.
The Olive Ridley sea turtle is the second smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles, yet it is still considered to be endangered and is classified as vulnerable worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List.