Monday, November 29, 2010

Turtle Van Gogh creates the perfect holiday gift!

Is there someone on your shopping list this year that has everything? Leave it to the turtles!

The Sea Turtle Rescue Program has a few non-sea turtle residents that can help you find the perfect gift for the animal lover on your list. As a part of environmental enrichment for our diamondback terrapins and eastern box turtles, we have skillfully trained them to paint! Ok, so there’s not much skill or training involved. All we do is let the turtles walk through non-toxic, water based paint and onto a canvas to create a beautiful piece of art. We just have to pick the “right” colors!

Environmental enrichment aims to enhance animal activity and provide mental stimulation, adding interesting and complex activities to the animals’ daily routine. It’s interactive for the turtles, fun for the volunteers, and the results are stunning. On your next visit to the aquarium, stop by the Welcome Desk and they will gladly show you all of our animal art. Each masterpiece comes with a photo of the artist and a Certificate of Authenticity. And while we’re partial to reptiles at the Sea Turtle Rescue Program, there are otter and penguin paintings, too! Come check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Happy Holidays!
Megan Walsh, Sea Turtle Rescue Program Intern

Friday, November 19, 2010

Santee finally rests on the bottom of her tank!

Two months after Santee was admitted by the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue Program, she is finally resting comfortably on the bottom of her tank! This is a great relief to staff and volunteers after many trips to get the huge loggerhead to the medical lab for a total of 45 radiographs, after tube feeding mineral oil and spirulina on 12 occasions, and only being able to keep her in 2 feet of water because of the severe angle at which she floated. Most of all, we are relieved that we don't have to do surgery to remove the stubborn impaction that plagued Santee for so long.

The impaction caused a gas build-up in Santee's intestinal tract which made her float at a severe angle for two months.

The impaction was caused by several extremely large pieces of horseshoe crab shell bound together with fecal material. Once the impaction moved out of the turtle, we knew it was just a matter of time before the intestinal gas moved through as well. And that happened yesterday!

Santee finally resting comfortably on the bottom of her tank.

Santee is finally on a normal feeding schedule including live hard-shelled prey. She not only chases after live crabs but also after the nets and tubes we use to clean her tank. She is obviously feeling better!

Huge thanks to all who have helped with this turtle and especially Captain Chad Ferris who rescued her. Come visit Santee and the other nine sea turtles that are rehabilitating at the South Carolina's the hottest tour in town!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Palmer has improved dramatically!

Five months ago, Palmer came to us on death's door. The lethargic loggerhead was skin on bones, severely anemic, had no detectable blood glucose, and the bony carapace was soft around the edges from being metabolized by the turtle for survival. These severely debilitated turtles are tough - over a month into rehabilitation and we still weren't confident "she" would live. But slowly she started making that turn for the better, putting on a small amount of weight and blood parameters climbing, little by little. As you can see by the comparison photos below, she has come a long way now!

For the first two months, Palmer was floating at the surface of her tank. In the photo below, she was cleaned of the barnacles and algae but was still so lethargic that most who saw her like this didn't believe she was alive.

And look at her now...almost 20 pounds heavier, flapping her flippers and getting us wet as we take her out of the tank. That's what we like to see!

We are all thrilled with the progress that Palmer has made. She will continue to improve over the winter months and will hopefully be ready for release next summer. Until then, book your reservation for the South Carolina Aquarium and Sea Turtle Hospital tour and come see Palmer for yourself!

PS - Thanks for the amazing photos, Barb!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A note from Megan, a Sea Turtle Rescue Program Intern

Hello everyone! As you may already know, the Sea Turtle Rescue Program could not run without it's roughly 16 volunteers. Among those volunteers are 2 interns working for college credit and/or experience within their field. I happen to be one of them, and I'd just like to introduce myself and in the future, keep you updated on some of the things that are happening around the Sea Turtle Hospital!

The Sea Turtle Hospital

My name is Megan and I've lived my entire life in Wisconsin, until now. I know, I know, there aren't very many sea turtle strandings in Wisconsin! But upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, with a major in Wildlife Education, I was looking for internships to further my career. Thankfully, I crossed paths with the South Carolina Aquarium and the Sea Turtle Rescue Program on the internet. After going through the application and interview process, and moving my entire life in one tiny little car down to Charleston (including my dog), I'm happy to report that it was love at first sight! I had never experienced sea turtles in close proximity before but on my first day working at the South Carolina Aquarium, I was in awe of them thinking what amazing creatures they are and how they need out help to thrive in the world's oceans.

Treating and wrapping the flipper wound on a 190-pound loggerhead, Dawsey.

Intern duties are varied. Most days include food prep and feeding our turtles a varied diet they need to become healthy again. The Sea Turtle Hospital has provided many firsts for the non-seafood-lover that I am...cutting up raw fish, de-tailing shrimp, and feeding live blue crabs to sea turtles (more on this later in another post!). Interns are also responsible for helping with general cleaning of the tanks and the hospital, helping with public tours that are given 5 days a week (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 11:30am and 1pm), never ending laundry, and many other random projects that need to be done. However, if there is a stranded turtle, we may come in on our day off to assist with the initial treatments. On the days that we're actually scheduled to work, our afternoons may be filled with treatments for that turtle. These treatments are time consuming but also very rewarding!

Above: Assisting in surgery to remove a stingray barb from the neck of an endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

Above: Giving physical therapy to a green sea turtle, Ripley, that is suffering from partial paralysis due to a boat strike very close to the spinal cord.
That is all for now, but please check back for updates on some of the exciting things happening around the hospital - like the different forms of enrichment for both our sea turtles and our "honorary turtles" that have taken up temporary residence in the hospital.

Megan Walsh
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Intern