Assessment of ground transportation stress in juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)
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Assessment of ground transportation stress in juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)

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  • Journal Title:
    Conservation Physiology
  • Description:
    Sea turtle rehabilitation centres frequently transport sea turtles for long distances to move animals between centres or to release them at beaches, yet there is little information on the possible effects of transportation-related stress ('transport stress') on sea turtles. To assess whether transport stress is a clinically relevant concern for endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii), we obtained pre-transport and post-transport plasma samples from 26 juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtles that were transported for 13 h (n = 15 turtles) or 26 h (n = 11 turtles) by truck for release at beaches. To control for effects of handling, food restriction and time of day, the same turtles were also studied on 'control days' 2 weeks prior to transport, i.e. with two samples taken to mimic pre-transport and post-transport timing, but without transportation. Blood samples were analysed for nine clinical health measures (pH, pCO2, pO2, HCO3, sodium, potassium, ionized calcium, lactate and haematocrit) and four 'stress-associated' parameters (corticosterone, glucose, white blood cell count and heterophil-to-lymphocyte ratio). Vital signs (heart rate, respiratory rate and cloacal temperature) were also monitored. Corticosterone and glucose showed pronounced elevations due specifically to transportation; for corticosterone, this elevation was significant only for the longer transport duration, whereas glucose increased significantly after both transport durations. However, clinical health measures and vital signs showed minimal or no changes in response to any sampling event (with or without transport), and all turtles appeared to be in good clinical health after both transport durations. Thus, transportation elicits a mild, but detectable, adrenal stress response that is more pronounced during longer durations of transport; nonetheless, Kemp's ridley sea turtles can tolerate ground transportation of up to 26 h in good health. These results are likely to depend on specific transportation and handling protocols.
  • Source:
    Conserv Physiol;. 2016 Mar 1;4(1):cov071.;
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    CC BY
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