More than 350 baby turtles have washed back to shore after facing Hurricane Matthew and other recent tropical storms. Although they have survived so much, their lives are still at risk because of plastic.
- Matthew, other storms cause baby turtles to wash back to shore
- Brevard Zoo caring for more than 350
- Tiny bits of plastic where the turtles feed a factor in deaths
With humans' helping hands, more than 350 baby sea turtles who washed up on shore were rescued and brought to the Brevard Zoo for rehabilitation.
"They are really lethargic and weak, so when they come to us they just float in the water a little bit," said Melanie Stadler, Sea Turtle Program Coordinator at the Brevard Zoo. "We feed them and give them shrimp and little mushed up pieces of fish."
As the turtles recover, specialists at the zoo are noticing a new trend -- several of the babies refuse to eat, continue to act lethargic and eventually die.
"One-hundred percent of those washbacks who have died have had plastic in them," Stadler said.
Specialists say these little turtles will basically eat anything. During this stage in their life they live and thrive in an area called the Sargasso Sea. This area is a large mass grouping of brown algae about 35 miles off shore where the currents converge.
Baby Sea turtles swim to this area as hatchlings and survive off the algea, eating any sea life that comes their way. However, small pieces of plastic also get trapped there, and the baby turtles then eat that plastic.
Earlier this hurricane season, the zoo experienced another surge of washbacks needing rescue. Nearly half of those rescues did not survive. Necropsies -- animal autopsies -- showed those turtles who passed consumed plastic, which led to their deaths.
We recently saved a wash back from Melbourne Beach last week. On Thursday, we found out the turtle did not survive, and will soon undergo a necropsy to reveal if plastic may have been a factor.
Currently, at least 340 washbacks survive at the zoo. Zoo officials hope to release them back into the wild as soon as next week, knowing they may still not survive long term.
"I'm comfortable saying 100 percent of these turtles have plastic just because we see plastic floating in every environment they are living in," Stadler explained.