A project of Mote Marine Laboratory.
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Life Stage: Adult
Release Date: 2009-09-25 00:00:00
Release Location: Lido Key, Sarasota County, Florida
Last Location: 2010-02-13 02:59:43
The Van Cleef family
Vicki & Lisa
James E Linekin III
Ms. Rosena's Third Grade Class
Vicky and Bob Lundstrom
Vicki Lee is a stranded adult female loggerhead sea turtle tagged 21 years ago by Mote Marine Laboratory that was rescued 4/14/09 and transported to Mote's Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital.
The turtle stranded near the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club and was weak and emaciated. It was rescued by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stranding program staff, who originally planned to take it another facility for rehab. After they examined the turtle and determined it had been tagged by Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, they brought it to Mote.
The turtle was initially identified by the passive integrated transponder, or PIT, tag that it was tagged with in 2003. A PIT tag is a microchip inserted under the skin of an animal that can be read with an electronic wand ï¿½ it's the same technology used in domestic dogs and cats. In the case of nesting turtles, PIT tags provide information about where and when the animal was tagged.
When the turtle later arrived at Mote, staff examining the animal also found the first metal tag placed on its right front flipper in 1988. "To have this tag stay on is amazing," said Vicki Wiese, who tagged the animal in 1988 while the turtle nested on Casey Key. "By the time they came back to nest again, at least one of those tags was usually gone."
Wiese, now Director of Events for Mote, helped start the Lab's first sea turtle conservation program in 1982 and began regularly tagging nesting sea turtles in 1987. The stranded loggerhead female brought to Mote was named Vicki Lee in Wiese's honor.
All told, Vicki Lee has been tagged four times by Mote staff as she nested again and again on Casey Key in Sarasota County. She was tagged again in 1996, 1999 and 2003.
The fact that the turtle was tagged in 1988 and has been seen nesting on Casey as recently as 2003 indicates the longevity of sea turtles and the need for long-term studies. Sea turtles are long-lived species,and in order to really understand their lives, we need to have long-term studies. New technologies such as satellite tags are helping us fill in the blanks on turtles' life histories. This information is crucial for a species that is in danger of extinction.
An initial medical evaluation indicated that Vicki Lee might be suffering from lethargic loggerhead syndrome, which causes animals to become weak and sometimes unable to move. The cause for the syndrome has not been identified. Vicki Lee received fluids and other appropriate medical care.
"She's improving, eating well and responding to treatment. She's on antibiotics and getting fluid therapy," said Lynne Byrd, medical care coordinator of Mote's Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital. Vicki Lee came to Mote emaciated, anemic and seemingly suffering from lethargic loggerhead syndrome, an illness of uncertain cause that can immobilize sea turtles. Mote staff made space in our already-full hospital for Vicki Lee, because the animal bore identification tags attached by Mote in 2003 and 1988. Now the loggerhead is munching fish and squid and looking better each day.
Upon full recovery, Vicki Lee was released at Lido Key on 9/25/09, a bit north of her nesting rookery on Casey Key so she can reorient easily and begin a journey back to her foraging ground. At release Vicki Lee measured 93.4 cm curved carapace length and 112.8 kg (249 lb).