“BALTIMORE — Sea turtle number 32 had a small part of its front left flipper amputated last week because a joint lesion has not healed since the reptile was brought to the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program in November.

“It’s an infection in the joint so we don’t want it to spread and then have to amputate the entire flipper,” said Amber White, a husbandry aide. “As you can image that would impair his swimming ability.”

The surgery on Friday went well. Number 32 has stitches in the flipper and has resumed its normal swimming activities, while stitches on the turtle’s front right flipper are healing well after a similar amputation was done at the animal care center in January.

Number 32 was found stranded off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., White said. Its rehabilitation carries high stakes because it is a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the smallest and most critically endangered species of sea turtles.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the Kemp’s Ridley turtle’s nesting numbers started declining dramatically after 1947, reaching a low of 702 nests in 1985. Since the mid-1980s, the number of nests laid in a season has been increasing. There were 20,800 documented nest in 2011. This increase is attributed to nest protection efforts and regulations requiring the use of turtle excluder devices in commercial fishing trawls.

Sea turtles were in the public eye last week when more than 1,000 scientists, researchers, conservationists, lawmakers and students from 80 different countries came to Baltimore for the 33rd Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, said Dr. Ray Carthy, president of the International Sea Turtle Society and assistant unit leader of the Florida Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit.


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