Thursday, September 30, 2010

160-pound sea turtle rescued by local fisherman

September 22nd started as just another day at work for charter fisherman, Chad Ferris. While fishing in the Santee Pass behind Caper's Island, Chad pointed out a loggerhead sea turtle at the surface of the water to his customer from Atlanta. Sea turtles surfacing to breath or bask are a familiar sight for anyone who spends lots of time on the water in the Lowcountry. That's why after watching the large loggerhead trying to dive for 30 minutes with no success, Chad knew she needed help. The two men mustered the strength and agility to lift the 160-pound turtle from the water into the boat (without falling in!) and headed for the Isle of Palms Marina to meet the SC Department of Natural Resources staff and volunteers.

Once the turtle was admitted into the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital, she was given supportive care to include fluid therapy, antibiotic and vitamin injections and diagnostics tests such as a blood analysis, ultrasound and radiographs (x-rays). Thousands of hatching marine leech eggs and some adult leeches were removed from the turtle's skin.

Radiographs revealed an intestinal impaction (pictured below) and gas trapped on the right side of the intestinal tract, which is causing Santee to float at a severe angle. She is being held in very shallow water to keep her floating on a level plane and is receiving regular tubing of mineral oil and lactulose for aid in moving the impaction.

Keep track of Santee's progress on the main hospital webpage and be sure to schedule a visit with her and all the other patients at the South Carolina Aquarium!

Huge thanks to Chad Ferris for recognizing this turtle needed help and responding. It is so important to recognize the part that our community plays in rescuing these threatened and endangered species. You are our eyes out there!

As always, we thank the SC Department of Natural Resources staff and volunteers for respondering to strandings and to the South Carolina Aquarium volunteers and that make this all possible.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

190-pound loggerhead admitted into South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital

We had just returned from 6 hours of nest inventory work on Cape Island Monday when an unusual stranding call came in. Good friends enjoying the Labor Day holiday were boating around Capers Inlet and had come across a large loggerhead sea turtle with an injured flipper stranded on the sandbar at low tide. After a short discussion, we all realized that time was of the essence if we wanted to rescue the wounded loggerhead because the tide was turning. The Smiths, no strangers to sea turtles, said they would stay with the turtle until help arrived.

The Smith Family with the injured 190-pound loggerhead.

Sarah Dawsey has led the USFWS Cape Romain Sea Turtle Project for many years and not only was she working on Labor Day but it was her birthday as well. Sarah, Jerry Tupacz, Arturo Herrera from SCDNR and I put the boat back in the water in response to the stranding call. By the time we made it over to Capers Inlet, the sandbars were diminishing under the rising tide and the turtle (all 190 pounds of her) had swam off. The Smith’s were doing their best to keep an eye on her and when we arrived, were able to point us in the direction of the turtle in last tide pool just before the ocean. It would only have been minutes before the turtle made her way over the last bit of sandbar to freedom, and most likely, death.

Sarah Dawsey, Arturo Herrera, Mark Smith and Jerry Tupacz getting turtle to boat.

After the boat rescue, the turtle was loaded into the SCDNR truck and transported to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital where treatment began. She had two large open wounds on the front left flipper that were terribly infected and was suffering from septicemia. The turtle hardly used the hurt limb. Treatment included 2 antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids, pain medications and wound treatment. Blood was taken for analysis and the loggerhead was left in a shallow pool of water for the night.

Huge thanks goes out to Mark, Shannon, Audrey and Johnny Otis Smith for their willingness to stay with the injured sea turtle for 2 hours until its rescue. Also to Sarah Dawsey and Jerry Tupacz of USFWS for extending their work day (especially on Sarah’s birthday) and reacting so quickly to launch the boat. Lastly, huge thanks to Arturo Herrera from SCDNR for staying for 2 additional hours to help maneuver this huge animal around the Sea Turtle Hospital – I couldn’t have done it without him!

In celebration of Sarah’s many achievements in sea turtle conservation, her unwavering determination to save yet another turtle and simply as a birthday gift, the turtle has been affectionately named Dawsey. You will be able to find future updates for Dawsey on the main hospital webpage.