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Our turtles thrill veterinary students from North Carolina

Royal Gazette

By Jessie Moniz
Published April 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

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North Carolina University verterinary students visiting Nonsuch Island

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North Carolina University verterinary students dissecting a turtle

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North Carolina University verterinary students talk about Longtail rehabilitation
with Lynn Thorne, staff member at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo

Bermuda has won high praise from a veterinary science professor who found the Island a perfect laboratory for studying semi-tropical ecology.

Greg Lewbart recently brought a group of 15 veterinary students from North Carolina State University to do a range of studies at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.

“I first started thinking about a field trip to Bermuda after I brought my mother in 2008. I had been promising to take her for 27 years,” said Dr Lewbart, who’d studied at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, now the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences, in the 1980s.

He arranged with long-time friend Ian Walker, the curator at BAMZ and a fellow aquatic animal veterinarian, to host a programme for the students at the facility.

One of the highlights for the students was dissecting green turtles and examining their stomach contents.

“We saw some things we normally don’t see in North Carolina,” said Dr Lewbart. “We do see sea turtles in North Carolina but not always this species or age. We saw some interesting parasitic lesions that we normally don’t see. Typically, most of the turtles we see are older and loggerheads, a different species. We didn’t see any trash in their stomachs but we saw a lot of food. Most of the sea turtles we do see have been cold-stunned and haven’t been eating for a while, so their gastrointestinal tract is usually empty.”

The group met with government conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros and visited Nonsuch Island. One of the thrills on that trip was seeing a Bermuda skink, as many of the students were interested in reptiles. They also saw two cahow chicks.

“This was a highlight for everyone, especially for myself and my wife as we are interested in birds,” said Dr Lewbart. “It was hard to even articulate how wonderful it was. We saw much of the Island and learned a lot about the history.”

They also heard a lecture about whales from Andrew Stevenson and then went whale watching to see the marine mammals up close. Students screamed with excitement when a whale breached in front of them.

“I hope we will come again some time,” said Dr Lewbart. “The trip really exceeded our expectations.”