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.