Splashing water and excited conversation filled the air behind the scenes of Baja Bay in the Pacific Seas Aquarium as veterinary staff and aquarists gathered for the annual exams of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s three sea turtles.
During the comprehensive exams, veterinary staff checked each sea turtle’s eyes, mouth, flippers, carapace and plastron (top and bottom sides of shell). They collected blood and performed X-rays to help assess Azul, Bruno and Sunny’s overall health.
Veterinarian Dr. Kadie Anderson and Intern Veterinarian Dr. Colin go over X-ray specifics and details for the exam.
The three turtles are isolated in a side pool and are individually lifted out with a net that can simultaneously weigh them.
Up first was the biggest of the bunch. An Atlantic green sea turtle, Bruno weighed in at a whopping 168 pounds.
A towel is draped over Bruno’s eyes to calm him and staff biologists get their biggest workout of the day – lifting Bruno from the net to the padded exam area next to it.
Staff Biologist Melissa puts her hand on Bruno’s shell to help calm him as the rest of Bruno’s animal care team help him settle in as well.
Dr. Colin checks Bruno’s eyes. Sea turtles can see well under water, but are short-sighted when out of water.
Veterinary Technician Sara takes X-rays of his flippers, body and head.
A bag covers the X-ray plate so it doesn’t get wet.
Dr. Anderson collects blood from Bruno so it can be analyzed.
Veterinary Technician Sara processes the blood.
All done! Bruno is placed back in the pool.
Next up was the smallest brother, Azul, who weighed 79 pounds. His animal care team measures his shell.
Veterinary Technician Sara shines a light to help Dr. Colin see while collecting blood in the dimly lit aquarium.
Dr. Colin then checks Azul’s flippers and looks at and evaluates the sea turtle’s whole body to ensure everything looks good.
Last up was Sunny.
Staff Biologist Tyler uses Sunny’s yellow training stick to encourage him to swim into the net. Sunny weighed in at 114 pounds.
Sunny’s eyes are checked. Sea turtles, like other marine reptiles and seabirds, have a salt gland that empties excess salt from their bodies into their eyes. The secretion of salt and fluid makes them look as if they are crying when they come ashore. These tears also help keep their eyes free of sand while females dig their nests.
Sunny’s plastron is checked by Dr. Colin as the sea turtle’s animal care team lifts him up.
Head Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf said all three sea turtles are in good health.