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N.C. State vets head to Gulf coast to help sea turtles

Posted June 16, 2010
Updated June 18, 2010

— Three North Carolina University veterinarians are headed to the Gulf coast to help sea turtles affected by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Greg Lewbart, a professor of aquatic animal medicine at N.C. State, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called him Wednesday morning requesting help.

“I’ve not worked with oiled sea turtles before. I’ve really not worked with oiled animals at all,” Lewbart said.

Lewbart and two turtle experts from the College of Veterinary Medicine are headed south. Lewbart’s first stop will be New Orleans where he’ll likely examine a large group of turtles recently pulled from the Gulf.

“We have a lot of experience looking at blood work and other diagnostic tests -- radiographs or X-rays -- those types of things,” he said.

Raleigh vets help sea turtles in the Gulf Raleigh vets help sea turtles in the Gulf

The veterinarians do not yet know the condition of the turtles they’ll be working with, but Lewbart said the biggest problem could be turtles that ingested oil.

“We’re going to be worried about immune compromise, their natural ability to fight off diseases,” he said. “Certainly it’s toxic in its own right.”

The latest figures show that 783 birds, 353 turtles and 41 mammals have died since the spill.

For someone dedicated to the research and care of turtles, Lewbart said the scenes from the Gulf are tough to see.

“Like everybody, we’re all frustrated. It’s a monumental disaster,” he said.

The veterinarians are expected to be along the Gulf Coast for at least two weeks.


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  • cbarnett Jun 18, 2010

    Who does BP think they are? How can they be in charge of who goes where and does what? Are they watching every inch of coast? Every inch of water? I'm so mad about this I could spit. And right into Tony Haywards face.

  • Bendal1 Jun 17, 2010


    They are going to the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, which is leading the animal rescue efforts down there. They've got a lot of birds and turtles they're trying to save.


    BP is, however, going to be cancelling a 3 week long deep sea turtle rescue mission next Wednesday. It seems that the boats going out to pick turtles out of the oil were getting in the way of the boats skimming and burning the oil, so BP has started banning the rescue boats from entering the area. Some captains have reported seeing turtles trapped in the oil as it is set on fire. Looks like BP is more interested in getting rid of oil than in saving wildlife; after all, a burned turtle doesn't get counted against them like a dead, recovered one does.

  • cbarnett Jun 17, 2010

    Thank you, doctors, for doing something the rest of us would love to do but really can't.

  • Joani P. Jun 16, 2010

    Surely BP will let people help these poor animals who cannot help themselves. The thought of any sea life or widelife struggling to survive is horrible, it will take ALOT of help to ever recover from this huge mistake!

  • juwannaknow Jun 16, 2010

    This is so devastating! I pray that they will be able to help the animals that have survived...BP disgusts me!!

  • PAINFREE Jun 16, 2010

    If BP is smart, they will let in anyone who can help. Surely they don't want to rile the animal rights activists! Pray for the sea turtles and other marine animals, as well as birds. It just makes me sick in the pit of my stomach to see the pictures from the area.

  • Adelinthe Jun 16, 2010

    I pray BP lets them in.

    Some of my friends volunteered to help with sea birds, and BP refused them.

    God bless.