Turtles rehabbing at Gulfport facility - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Turtles rehabbing at Gulfport facility

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - One turtle eagerly chased a tiny crab around a plastic tank.  But his friend in another tank, needed some extra coaxing to try the fresh shrimp. Meanwhile, a third turtle was also learning to eat properly.

"She hasn't been eating here," said a staff member who was tending to the turtles.

All three are Kemps Ridley turtles and are between two to three years old.  Just days ago, the endangered reptiles were struggling to stay alive on the beaches of Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

"Different people called, and we were able to send our team and recover them," said Moby Solangi, with the Institute for Marine Mammals Studies. "They all had hooks in them. We've taken the hooks. We've taken x-rays, blood samples, and we are rehabilitating them. And they are looking wonderful. We're glad that we're able to save at least three of them."

Solangi and his staff at the Gulfport facility are trying to help the animals regain their strength, so they can return to the wild. At a time when more than 75 turtles have washed ashore in South Mississippi, Solangi said it was encouraging to find the few survivors.

"A very unique opportunity," Solangi said. "I've been in this business 30 years and have never seen them feed directly, and it's amazing to see how they feed."

With the recent influx of turtles, the facility has had to make some changes. A building on the east side of the campus was originally built to house sea lions. Now, it's been converted into a turtle rehabilitation center.

Solangi said if more turtles are found alive, his facility can accommodate up to 100 injured animals.

"I think people are much more aware of this. Thanks to WLOX and others, that have put out the word that if you do see something, call us, and we'll take care of them," said Solangi.

If you notice any injured wildlife, you can contact the IMMS by calling (888) 767-3657.

On Tuesday, NOAA reported that since the oil spill, there have been 162 sea turtle strandings or deaths along the entire gulf coast region. Officials say that is up significantly compared to years past. However, they caution that the higher number could be due to the fact that more people are combing the beaches looking for stranded animals.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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