Tuesday, June 29, 2010

18th Green and May showing signs of improvement; Palmer still not out of the woods

Three sea turtles admitted into the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital over the last 8 weeks have been undergoing intense medical treatment to stay alive. Although we are seeing improvements in all three, the prognosis of one patient is still very much guarded. Here is the latest on these sea turtle patients:

18th Green
This juvenile green sea turtle has been suffering from a debilitating intestinal impaction. Treatment included subcutaneous fluids 2X/day to combat dehydration, vitamin and antibiotic injections, tube feeding of mineral oil concoctions, enemas, and almost daily radiographs to be sure the impaction was moving through the intestinal tract. Just last week, the animal finally defecated a few times and it was almost no surprise that several pieces of plastics were in the fecal matter. These vegetarian green sea turtles often eat plastics that collect in seagrass beds in which they feed. This should be an important reminder to keep trash out of our natural environment! Below are photos of an x-ray (one of 40!) and 18th Green floating from gas build-up in the intestines as well as video taken today of her finally swimming around her tank. She still a little bouyant but much less than before.

This little Kemp's ridley is one lucky turtle! Not many small turtles survive boat strikes but after 2 months of rigorous treatment, this little turtle is finally eating on his own and is no longer positively buoyant. We are regularly treating the open wounds and giving antibiotics to keep infection away. It may take this little turtle a while to get over this one! The photos below are of May just after surgery to wire portions of the shell together and the most recent underwater shot of May resting on the bottom of the hospital tank, refreshing to see after several weeks of floating at the surface.

Palmer is the newest stranding in the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital arriving on June 16th. The 90-pound loggerhead is severely debilitated and after 3 weeks of treatment, the prognosis is still guarded. With a white blood cell count of 28, this animal is on a double regimen of antibiotics as well as vitamins and minerals to combat severely low blood chemistries and counts. Palmer has just started eating and was transferred out of the triage tank and into a filtered tank - certainly a move in the right direction. Below is a photo of Palmer in the new tank. S/he is positively buoyant and we are hoping this issue will resolve as the turtle's health improves. This isn't a pretty photo but it is what we are dealing with right now. The second photo is Palmer getting subcutaneous fluids from Kristen and Mary.

Keep track of the progress on all 8 patients at the Sea Turtle Hospital's webpage or come visit the patients in person at the Aquarium! Details of tour times and days are listed on the website. Thanks to all for your support of this program. The old proverb about raising a child is also true about saving sea turtles… “It takes a village.”


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kemp's ridley survives boat strike

For the third Saturday night in a row, the call came in from the SC Department of Natural Resources that a live sea turtle had been found. A young Kemp's ridley with a boat strike was pulled from the May River in Bluffton, SC on June 6th. It was almost 11:30pm when DNR arrived with the injured turtle where the Sea Turtle Hospital Team was ready for action.

Blood was taken to get hematocrit and protein levels which would tell us how much blood the animal had lost. Although the numbers were somewhat low, we could tell that the turtle had not lost a tremendous amount. The fracture is right over the lung and each time the animal took a breath, the tissue moved up and down. Although this a traumatic injury, it didn't appear as though lung tissue had actually been penetrated. The wound received copious amounts of flushing with saline and fluids were also given subcutaneously (pictured below with intern Liz Mills administering fluids).

An antibiotic injection was given to prevent infection. The cleaned wound was then packed with silver sulfadiazine, an ointment containing antibacterial and antifungal agents. A wrap was placed over the wound and the turtle placed in shallow salt water.

Thanks to all involved in the rescue of this turtle! You can get more information about this turtle on the main hospital page.
Kelly T

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sea turtle stranding update and "Gala"

The South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program admits sick and injured sea turtles in need of rehabilitation with the goal of releasing them back into the ocean once deemed healthy. Since the program's inception, 51 sea turtles have been treated and released - a great number indeed!

The darker side of this story is that although we are making a big difference in the lives of sea turtles that overcome horrible injuries and illnesses, many more wash up on our beaches dead or are too sick to save. The numbers are grim: according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, over the last 10 years, the average number of sea turtle standings on South Carolina beaches each year is 133. Already this year, 53 sea turtles have stranded. Of these, roughly 10% are alive and transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital. But even with the tireless efforts of the Aquarium’s turtle rescue staff, not all of them survive.

We experienced this with a recent patient. After 10 days of intensive medical treatment for severe anemia, hypoglycemia, internal parasitic and bacterial infections and much more, the debilitated loggerhead "Gala" that was rescued from Surfside Beach, passed. It is truly amazing that this turtle survived as long as s/he did but this certainly doesn't make the death any easier. A huge thank you goes out to all folks involved in the rescue and treatment of this animal as well as the support for our team.

With sea turtle season in full swing, I urge you all to remember and remind your friends to step lightly in the natural habitat of sea turtles:
  • Leave the beaches dark, clean and free of holes for the nesting loggerheads and the thousands of hatchlings that will start emerging from their nests in July.
  • Boat strikes are really taking a toll on all four species that occur off our coast – loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, greens and leatherbacks. If you are boating, please remember that sea turtles are in the waters all around you, inshore and offshore.
  • REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE! The amount of trash that ends up in our waterways and ocean is horrifying and really brings to light the disposable culture in which we live. We all need to go the extra mile to create less trash in our daily lives. You can find some great ideas at http://www.reusablebags.com/store/.
  • Do not disturb nesting sea turtles or emerging hatchlings and if you find a sick or injured sea turtle (or hook one on your fishing line), call the SCDNR hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
  • Support our efforts to save sick and injured sea turtles by becoming a stranded turtle adoptive parent, donating on line or visiting the Sea Turtle Hospital in person. More information can be found at http://www.scaquarium.org/.

Thank you for caring about sea turtles!
Kelly Thorvalson