Rehabilitation

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Our current patients are listed in the order they have been rescued, from newest to oldest. You can click the photo for more information about the animals and find information to adopt select animals

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Scroll down to learn more about our rehabilitation methods.

CHESTNUT
CHESTNUT

NY4308-10
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  • Species: Atlantic green sea turtle – Chelonia mydas
  • Conservation Status: Threatened
  • Age: Juvenile
  • Stranding Date: November 8, 2010
  • Stranding Location: Near Zach’s Bay at Jones Beach State Park
  • Initial Problem: Cold-stunned and wound from a boat-strike.
  • Status: Unreleasable

 

Methods: Rehabilitation Procedure
Each animal is unique, and rehabilitation procedures are determined on a case-by-case basis. Just as when humans go to the doctor, each animal that comes to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP) has a program tailored to suit their needs. When a report is received, a team of biologists, interns, and/or volunteers conducts a field assessment to determine if the animal does in fact need to come back for rehabilitation. Sometimes if the animal appears to be in good condition, it will be left on the beach for monitoring. Not all animals on the beach are stranded and need rehabilitation. To learn the difference, click here.

When an animal arrives back at our facility, it will be triaged. A physical exam will be performed by biologists with a team of interns and volunteers, data will be collected through examinations and blood work, and volunteer veterinarians will make a diagnosis. Some examinations include taking measurements to see if the animal is within normal range for it’s species, temperature and heart rate are checked, radiographs to check the lungs, and blood samples to determine infection, dehydration, and more. The in-house lab allows us to perform many of these vital tests.

After a plan of action is determined for the animal, we will work alongside the volunteer veterinarians to bring the animal back to good health. The average seal spends eight weeks in rehabilitation, and the average sea turtle spends 242 days. Once an animal is healthy again, and is determined to be successful if released into the wild, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries will grant approval for release.

Normal versus Unusual Events
As each case is unique, there are some cases that are unusual, and therefore require different rehabilitation procedures. For example, the bottlenose dolphin unusual mortality event (UME) caused many of these dolphins to contract a deadly virus, and many began to strand. These dolphins were at risk of affecting others in the population, and continued to restrand. This would be an example of an animal that would not be suitable for release, as it would not succeed in the wild. For situations such as these, stranding networks across the east and west coasts coordinated with NOAA to determine the best course of action for this unique situation. Data collected from these animals help to support these decisions. Historically, offshore species do not succeed in the wild after rehabilitation.

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP) is the first organization to successfully rescue and rehabilitate a Risso’s dolphin. Rocky had first been discovered in surf at Cape Henelopen State Park in Delaware in 2004, and the first responding stranding network was the Marine Education, Research, and Rehabilitation (MERR) Institute. The team stabilized the juvenile dolphin, which was then transported eight hours north to our facility. After eight months of rehabilitation, Rocky was deemed releasable, and transported 20 miles offshore to be released. This was the first of its species to be successfully rehabilitated, and is one of our most notable accomplishments. In 2013, a second Risso’s dolphin had stranded, and was later rehabilitated by RFMRP and released into the wild. While these unique rehabilitation cases were successful, they are very rare. Research plays a vital role in the rehabilitation of these animals. Both animals were given satellite tags before they were released.

View their tracking maps: For Rocky, click here and for Roxanne, click here.