NEW ORLEANS -- The first sea turtle rescued from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- a baby endangered Kemp's ridley -- has a temporary home in a wading pool and is being scrubbed clean with a toothbrush, the Audubon Aquarium said Wednesday.
A federal biologist in a boat looking for oiled animals found the turtle floating in the slick on Tuesday, about 35 miles from shore, aquarium spokeswoman Meghan Calhoun said Wednesday.
After a boat ride to Venice and a car ride to the aquarium's Aquatics Center on New Orleans' west bank, turtle No. LA-15 got its first bath late Tuesday, from the inside of its mouth to the tips of its flippers and stubby tail, she said.
'It most likely will get several baths over the next several days. It was very dirty, to say the least,' she said.
More than 150 dead sea turtles, most of them Kemp's ridleys, have washed ashore since a wild well began gushing on the seafloor late April 20. However, oil has not been found on or in them so far, officials said Tuesday.
This one has a shell less than seven inches long and about 6 1/2 inches across. Mature Kemp's ridleys have shells about 2 feet long.
Audubon Nature Institute veterinarian Bob MacLean and resident Hugues Beaufrere took oil and blood samples before joining Michele Kelley, Louisiana's state marine mammal and sea turtle stranding coordinator, to bathe it.
With one person holding the turtle, another had to stretch each flipper while cleaning it, Calhoun said.
Kelley bought dozens of wading pools as washtubs and temporary living space for small turtles. Until Tuesday, the wading pools all were stacked on the big concrete 'patio' at the Aquatic Center. For larger turtles, she bought 5-foot-wide, 2-feet-deep containers, and the building itself holds three tanks big enough for dolphins.
Calhoun said staff will keep an eye on little LA-15 until it has a clean bill of health, and it will stay at the institute until the Gulf of Mexico is deemed safe enough for release.
------ Online: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: http://www.auduboninstitute.org/visit/aquarium
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