Trapped, endangered, sea turtle saved in Vermillion parish

Photo courtesy of LDWF and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Photo courtesy of LDWF and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Photo courtesy of LDWF and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Photo courtesy of LDWF and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Fromt the office of the LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), through their partnership in the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program (LMMSTRP), rescued a Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle trapped in a pond near Freshwater City in Vermilion Parish on March 11.

A concerned citizen first reported the turtle to LDWF's Enforcement Division in January.  LDWF's Marine Fisheries Division staff confirmed a sighting of the endangered sea turtle on Jan. 30 and photographed it on Feb. 10.  The turtle was located in a borrow pit pond owned by Vermilion Corporation on the east side of La. Hwy. 3147 in southern Vermilion Parish. It is believed to have been trapped in the pond since Hurricane Ike's landfall in Sept. 2008.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and LDWF staff rescued the 90-pound female sea turtle from the pond and transported her to Audubon Nature Institute's Aquatic Center in New Orleans for further evaluation and later release back into the Gulf of Mexico.

"Getting the chance to save any endangered species, especially a beautiful sea turtle such as the Kemp's Ridley, is a great accomplishment," said LDWF Coastal Research and Assessment Biologist Mandy Tumlin.  "This is another example of what we can accomplish working together with our partners at Audubon and the public."

The rescue team included Tumlin, Paul Cook, Mandy Courville, Amanda Shahan, David LeBlanc, Jeff Marx, Todd Lewis, Clay Marques, Keith Delahoussaye and Lonnie Campbell from LDWF; and Michele Kelley, John Hewitt, Christa Lobue, James Arnold and Dr. Julio Mercado from Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

The rescue team utilized seining nets to capture the sea turtle. Arnold was able to hold the turtle once captured until additional rescuers were able to free the turtle from the net.  A pirogue and flat bottom vessel were utilized to transport the turtle to the nearby shoreline. Blood samples were drawn and the turtle was placed in a padded container for transport to Audubon Aquatic Center.

LDWF Enforcement agents from the Lake Charles and Baton Rouge regional offices provided escorts to return the turtle to an aquatic environment as quickly as possible.

"It is very important that we save as many Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles as possible since they are the most critically endangered species of all sea turtles," said Tumlin.  "Currently, we are working on securing funding to satellite tag the turtle prior to release. This research device would provide valuable data that would help us understand more about the movement of the species."

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle's were placed on the Louisiana endangered species list in 1989.  They live in sheltered areas along the coast including bays, bayous and estuaries and are considered the smallest sea turtles, usually weighing between 80 and 100 pounds when fully matured.

LMMSTRP is a volunteer organization based at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The group is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or out-of-habit marine mammals and sea turtles. LMMSTRP works with other conservation organizations to respond to stranded marine mammals and seaturtles, to collect data about existing populations of marine animals along the Louisiana coast and waterways, and to help researchers develop new knowledge supporting the conservation of marine species.

To report a marine mammal or sea turtle in distress in the Louisiana area, call 504-235-3005 or email to