Endangered Sea Turtles Displaced by Oil Spill Thriving at Walt Disney World Resort

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Two Disney animal care experts at Epcot’s The Seas take measurements of a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle as they track its rehabilitation progress. Photo courtesy DisneyTwo ailing Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are on the road to recovery after being brought to Walt Disney World Resort last month from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss. to make room for animals directly impacted by the Gulf oil spill.

The sea turtles, suffering from pneumonia, were flown to Orlando June 25 and placed in the care of Disney animal experts. Kemp’s Ridley turtles are among the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world. The two are being monitored in a special backstage area at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot and will require several months of rehabilitation before they are released back into the wild. Progress so far is favorable.

“They’re doing very well,” said Tom Hopkins, animal operations area director for Walt Disney World Resort. “One still has a touch of pneumonia but is doing much better. The other sea turtle is eating more and beginning to gain weight.”

Animal experts at Walt Disney World Resort have extensive experience rehabilitating sea turtles. Since 1986, Disney animal care teams have nursed more than 250 endangered sea turtles back to health. Most recently, Disney animal experts cared for 15 green sea turtles injured from the cold weather snap that affected Florida earlier this year.

As a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, Disney’s Animal Programs supports the rescue and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year. The team participates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other zoological facilities and conservation groups in the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot is a designated rehabilitation site for rescued manatees and sea turtles until they are well enough to be returned to their habitats.

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