Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turtle Hospital admits 4 cold-stunned sea turtles from NC

The recent onslaught of cold weather in NC was not only a shock to the people living there but also to the sea turtles just off the coast. Sea turtles are unable to regulate their body temperature so dramatic decreases in water temperature cause the turtles to become immobile and make it impossible for them to migrate to warmer water. Since late last week, over 60 sea turtles have become cold-stunned and stranded on NC beaches. It is a race against time for these animals that will die without help and whose populations are already in trouble. As NC facilities are overwhelmed with the numbers, North Carolina Department of Natural Resources put a call in for help to neighboring states that could possibly take some of the load.

After confirming that the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program would be able to help, DuBose Griffin, Sea Turtle Coordinator of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, traveled over 8 hours to transport 2 green sea turtles and 2 loggerhead sea turtles to the Turtle Hospital. Although the hospital was essentially full when the initial call for help came in Monday morning, staff knew that some changes could be made, some turtles could be moved and temporary tanks cleaned, to make room for 4 new patients. The hospital is now bustling with 12 patients, the most the South Carolina Aquarium has ever held at once!

The cold-stunned sea turtles were

admitted on Monday evening and aside from warming their core temperatures slowly to match the temperature of the holding pools, Dr. Boylan gave them full physicals, vitamin injections and antibiotics to prevent pneumonia. The animals are all lethargic and are being monitored very closely.

You can see the new patients by going to the hospital page but even better, you can visit all 12 patients by taking a hospital tour! Tour information is on the website. We’d love to see you!

Kelly Thorvalson

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mama Pritchard egg update

The Pritchards Island turtle team observed several false crawls and deteriorating wounds in an adult female loggerhead in late spring of 2008. These wounds would have likely led to the animal’s death if the SCDNR and the Pritchards Island turtle team had not made great efforts in saving this animal. During several months of rehabilitation, Mama Pritchard, named for the location she was found, laid a total of 146 eggs at the South Carolina Aquarium’s turtle hospital. The number of eggs suggests she was carrying a full clutch when she arrived for treatment. Although the first eggs deposited were obviously nonviable and the chances were very slim that any of the eggs would develop, the majority were incubated for 70+ days.

Recently, the eggs were evaluated at the Aquarium by SCDNR sea turtle biologists and it was obvious that none of the eggs were viable. This was likely due to the location, severity and timing of the significant trauma Mama Pritchard endured during her nesting season. The SC Aquarium would like to express its gratitude to the Aquarium volunteers, interns and staff who patiently assisted with egg monitoring, the Pritchards Island turtle team for diligently monitoring the beaches, and the SCDNR sea turtle program for allowing the egg incubation. Although the eggs did not survive the trauma, Mama Pritchard is doing very well in rehabilitation. She will survive to produce more offspring thanks to the efforts of all those involved in South Carolina’s sea turtle program.

Dr. Shane Boylan

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Critically injured patients show improvement!

Both Myrtle, the Kemp’s ridley with the severe head fracture and North Myrtle, the loggerhead with a crushed shell and pneumonia, have survived very traumatic injuries and are currently showing signs of improvement. The final prognosis for both sea turtles is still questionable but turtle hospital staff and volunteers are rejoicing at positive progress!

Myrtle started showing interest in food in late September and now has an appetite that rivals even the healthiest of patients in the hospital. The small, 5-pound sea turtle has been floating at the surface of the water since he was first introduced into a tank. The video clip was taken just after he started eating and was put in a larger filtered system and shows that he is actually able to dive if it means getting tasty fish morsels!

North Myrtle has been receiving antibiotic nebulization for over a month to treat pneumonia and although the turtle has shown signs of increased activity, she has shown no interest in food the entire time – until this week that is. On October 6, North Myrtle ate a live blue crab which is the first time food was willingly eaten. Blue crabs are a natural dietary item for loggerheads in the wild and we keep a steady supply of them for the loggerheads in rehabilitative care. The video clip shows North Myrtle eating the crab. As her appetite and energy level increase, so will the speed at which she attacks the crab. We are thrilled that 6-year old Ethan Harrison visited from Ontario that same day to donate $1000 of hard earned money to support the sick and injured sea turtles. Perhaps Ethan was a good luck charm for our injured North Myrtle. Thank you, Ethan, for your hard work in raising funds to support this program and your passion for sea turtle conservation!

Stay tuned in to the hospital page for updates on Myrtle, North Myrtle and the other 6 sea turtle patients in the South Carolina Aquarium’s Turtle Hospital!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

New patients admitted into Turtle Hospital

I am constantly amazed at the resilience of sea turtles. The last two patients to be admitted into the Turtle Hospital have such extensive injuries that I have to wonder how they survive. The short answer may be that they are reptiles. A mammal would very rarely survive these injuries. But even with resilience on their side, these young sea turtles will require a great deal of time, care and medication if they are going to have a chance of surviving.

Myrtle, a small Kemp’s ridley with a major skull fracture (most likely caused by a boat propeller) arrived from Myrtle Beach on August 26. Within an hour of the turtle’s arrival, Dr. Shane Boylan, South Carolina Aquarium Veterinarian, wired the upper jaw back together with the turtle fully anesthetized. Remarkably, the turtle made it through surgery and is still alive today. Treatment is ongoing for this little guy and we can only hope that a head injury such as this one can heal without complications. Only time will tell.

North Myrtle, a juvenile loggerhead that arrived only a week after Myrtle, is suffering from a crushed carapace and pneumonia. The carapace has 6 major fractures and many bone fragments that will eventually die off. Pneumonia in sea turtles, especially in later stages, is very difficult to treat. Hours are spent each day with this animal doing wound treatment and antibiotic nebulization. We hope that this intense medical care will rein in the end.

Be sure to check the Turtle Hospital webpage for regular updates on these new patients and all of the turtles in rehabilitation. And in case you didn't know it, sick and injured sea turtles love having visitors, so come see them for yourself by taking a hospital tour!

Kelly Thorvalson

Friday, August 22, 2008


Welcome to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program blog! Through this blog, we will be able to keep you informed about the happenings in the South Carolina’s only sea turtle hospital. The program is in partnership with the SC Department of Natural Resources Marine Turtle Conservation Program. For starters, I would like to tell you about the amazing team that helps make this program a success.

The South Carolina Aquarium is a private, nonprofit organization that relies heavily on volunteers for the day to day operations. The Sea Turtle Rescue volunteer team is a group of 10 enthusiastic and dedicated people that give generously of their time to help this conservation program. Among other things, the volunteers are responsible for preparing food, feeding patients, cleaning holding tanks, administering vitamin supplements and oral medications, providing wound care and physical therapy, maintaining the hospital, giving turtle hospital tours and doing outreach programs. All of the volunteers have unique personalities and skills that make the program a success, but I would like to highlight one volunteer with a skill that will consistently show up in this blog.

For 5 years, Barbara Bergwerf has been lending her professional photographic skills to the rescue program by photographing the sick and injured turtles from admission to release. Barb is also the photographer of 2 award winning children’s books about sea turtles and has her photos in shops and galleries all around the nation. Thank you, Barb, for sharing your talents with us.

To the entire Sea Turtle Rescue volunteer team - thank you so much for your diligent work in the Turtle Hospital, your dedication to the Aquarium, and your passion for these amazing animals! We couldn’t do what we do without your help and I look forward to many more years of working with you!

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Coordinator