One extremely passionate seven-year-old boy, one very sick sea turtle, four garage sales, three craft shows, 500 homemade turtle chocolates and numerous 10-cent bottle refunds add up to a winning combination for patients in the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program. Ethan, inspired by a behind-the-scenes tour of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, has worked diligently for over two years raising funds to support the hospital patients. To his honor, on July 26, 2009, Ethan will join Aquarium staff in releasing Wadmalaw, the Kemp’s ridley whose story first inspired him to educate others about the plight of sea turtles and work towards raising money for their treatment. Two other rehabilitated sea turtles, Kiawah and Winyah, will also be released on Sunday, July 26 at 3 p.m. at Beachwalker County Park located on the west end of Kiawah Island, S.C. (Parking is limited and Beachwalker County Park parking fees will apply).
Ethan, a resident of Caledonia, Ontario in Canada first came to the Aquarium when he was five years old to deliver $214 he had raised for patients in the Sea Turtle Hospital. On his initial visit, Ethan met Wadmalaw, a critically ill patient. Inspired by his encounter, at home, he continued to educate others and raise money to aid in the medical care of these threatened and endangered species. His passion to-date has added up to enough money to feed eight sea turtle patients for an entire year or to cover a year’s worth of medication and procedures for a patient in the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital.
On July 26, Ethan plans to present a $1,000 donation to the Aquarium during the beach release on Kiawah Island. With the July 26 planned gift, Ethan’s donations total $2,274. He continues to raise money for the hospital through his own fundraising ideas and has most recently “asked for turtle donations in lieu of gifts from his friends for his birthday” said his mother Shelley Harrison. In school in his hometown of Caledonia, Ontario in Canada, Ethan uses show-and-tell to educate his peers about sea turtles asking them to stop using plastic bags “because sea turtles eat them thinking they are jellyfish” he said. He purchased a reusable bag for each child in his class and asked them to use the reusable bag instead.
In June, Ethan won his school’s 'Principal's Award for Student Leadership' due to his conservation efforts for sea turtles and the environment. He was also nominated for both a ‘Junior Citizen’ award and for an 'Amazing Kid' contest on a local radio station.
About Wadmalaw (Kemp’s ridley sea turtle)
Wadmalaw was admitted into the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital on July 11, 2007 after being caught by a fisherman on hook and line on Wadmalaw Island, S.C. The hook was lodged deep in the turtle’s mouth and the fisherman was unable to remove it. On the day of Wadmalaw’s arrival, under full anesthesia, surgery was performed and the hook was successfully removed. There were also additional complications with this patient. Wadmalaw was floating, not interested in food and was very lethargic. Through subsequent radiographs, hospital staff learned that the Wadmalaw had a bone degenerating infection that had invaded several joints causing swelling and loss of flipper movement. Through subsequent radiographs, hospital staff learned that the Wadmalaw had a bone degenerating infection that had invaded several joints causing swelling and loss of flipper movement. With an unknown future and poor prognosis, staff held out hope and proceeded with treatment for the small turtle which included antibiotic and antifungal injections, vitamin injections and tube feeding. Physical therapy was initiated to keep its flippers from becoming atrophied. In late September, Wadmalaw started to show interest in food and in January 2008 began getting movement back in some of the flippers. By May 2008 after undergoing five sets of radiographs, a CT scan and multiple medications, Wadmalaw started showing signs of great improvement. Sea Turtle Rescue Program Coordinator, Kelly Thorvalson wrote on her blog, “time is this animal's friend,” and so it was, as now it is healed and ready for release.
About Winyah (Kemp’s ridley sea turtle)
On September 22, 2008 Winyah was found comatose after getting entangled and trapped underwater in a channel net used to catch shrimp in the Winyah Bay in Georgetown, S.C. Upon arrival at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, staff kept the animal at an angle to drain the fluid from the lungs. An antibiotic regimen was initiated to prevent pneumonia, which would have been likely without treatment. Due to the large amount of fluids, it was evident that while caught in the net the turtle was unable to come to the surface to breathe. Healthy, Winyah is now ready for release.
About Kiawah (loggerhead sea turtle)
Found washed up on Kiawah Island, the juvenile debilitated loggerhead was admitted into the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital on March 28, 2009. The turtle was hypoglycemic, moderately emaciated, dehydrated and covered in small barnacles, algae and skeleton shrimp indicating it had been lethargic for a long time. Fluid therapy, antibiotics, and dextrose were immediately administered. Supportive therapy continued and Kiawah began showing signs of improvement. By May 2009 the turtle was eating well and very active. Having added necessary weight and the bloodwork analyzed, Kiawah is ready for release.
The public is invited to come and join the Aquarium Sunday afternoon July 26 at 3 p.m. at Beachwalker County Park located on the west end of Kiawah Island, S.C. for the sea turtles Wadmalaw, Winyah and Kiawah’s beach release. Additionally, Wednesday, July 22 through Saturday, July 25 the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital will be offering additional behind-the-scenes tours at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.
For advance bookings for the Sea Turtle Hospital tour, please call the Aquarium at (843) 577-FISH (3474).