OCEAN CITY — The cold stunned green sea turtle that was rescued in Ocean City at the end of last month officially has a name and is showing strong signs of recovery. “Chipper” still faces a long road of rehabilitation, however.
While it would be forgivable to assume the name “Chipper” is a reflection of the turtle’s friendly nature, the turtle’s actual namesake is a supporting character in a popular 1980’s action flick.
“So all of our names this season have been based off of the movie “Top Gun”,” explained Jennifer Dittmar, manager of the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program. “So he has the name, ‘Chipper.’”
Though Dittmar referred to Chipper as a “he,” the jury is still out on the turtle’s actual gender due to it being a juvenile.
Chipper’s progress since entering the National Aquarium in Baltimore last month has been promising for the most part. But he is still battling a few health issues commonly associated with cold stunned turtles.
“We’re still seeing a little bit of pH changes in his blood,” Dittmar said. “So there’s still a little something going on internally that our vets are still trying to figure out.”
Balancing pH levels in blood is important when rehabbing a cold stunned turtle. Raising their internal temperature too quickly could cause their blood to become acidic and cause damage.
But by all appearances Chipper has avoided anything serious and has been observed hitting the aquarium’s pool and lettuce supply with equal gusto.
“He’s eating really well and behaving naturally like a turtle should,” said Dittmar.
It’s a far cry from Chipper’s original condition when he was found stranded in Ocean City in late November. He was sluggish and had an internal body temperature of only about 38 degrees, roughly half of the normal green sea turtle body temperature of 70 to 80 degrees.
Chipper seems to be out of the woods by this point but will still be sheltered at the aquarium for several more months of recovery.
“It’s still way too far out [for release]. All of the turtles that we have here will be in rehab at least three months,” said Dittmar. “The average is three to six months. So they’ll be here a while.”
At least Chipper will have company. The National Aquarium is currently rehabilitating 12 turtles, including 10 Kemp’s Ridley turtles. Besides Chipper, there is one other green sea turtle that was rescued recently in New Jersey. Another half-dozen or so recovering turtles will also be transferred to the aquarium from New England next week.