Monday, January 31, 2011

Huge thanks to Kiawah Island Community Association for 4WD truck donation!

The Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA) pulled through once again! Kelly Bragg and Shannon White from KICA, arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium on Friday to donate a 4WD Toyota Tacoma truck. This is the second truck to be retired from KICA and donated to the Aquarium in less than a year! Although this particular truck will be useful in many situations for the Aquarium, it will be primarily used by the Sea Turtle Rescue Program for educational outreach and to drive rehabilitated sea turtles onto local beaches for release.

Above: A nice, new ride for our rehabilitated sea turtles!

Above, left to right: SC Aquarium CEO, Kevin Mills; KICA Board of Directors Chair, Kelly Bragg; STRP Manager, Kelly Thorvalson

The first truck donated by KICA, a 4-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, was delivered in the summer of 2010. That donation came right on the heels of two ~10-year old Aquarium owned vehicles breaking down to the point of no return (after we eeked every mile possible out of them), so the gift could not have been better timing.

Thank you Kelly, Shannon and the entire Kiawah Island Community Association - we are forever grateful!

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wednesday is your last chance to visit hatchlings!

We have just learned that the green sea turtle hatchlings will be leaving very early Thursday morning to be released in Florida by the SC Department of Natural Resources. If you would live to visit them before they go, tomorrow is your last chance! Get up close to 19 sea turtle patients as well as 38 hatchlings by taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital at 11:30am or 1pm. There is a small fee in addition to Aquarium admission.

For a full schedule of tour days and times, visit the Sea Turtle Rescue Program webpage at

Hope to see you there!
Kelly Thorvalson

Monday, January 17, 2011

Support the Ban of Mass Balloon Releases in SC

What goes up must come down...we’re talking about helium filled balloons. Thousands end up in our waterways and the ocean. They can be deadly to marine animals and birds that mistake them for food or become entangled in the ribbons. Mass balloon releases have been banned in at least seven states nationwide, multiple cities, and in other areas around the world, but South Carolina still allows them. Even though many balloons are made of biodegradable latex, they take months to degrade and wild animals ingest them prior to that time. According to the Marine Conservation Society, dolphins, whales, seabirds and turtles have died from balloons.

That’s why students at Belton Elementary School in Belton, South Carolina, wrote to state lawmakers asking for a ban on massive balloon releases. These students understand that it is vital to keep litter out of our beautiful state and to ensure the survival of wildlife, including threatened and endangered sea turtles. A bill to ban mass balloon releases in SC will be voted on soon and we are asking you to support this ban by writing your state representative. This bill can only get passed if it has your support!

A letter to you from Belton Elementary students:

You must have your 9-digit zip code to find your state representative. You can get that at With your 9-digit zip code, you can find you’re your state representative at Whether you use wording from the student’s letter, the above e-mail or use your own words, tell your state representative that mass balloon releases should be banned in SC!

Find out more about how balloons harm animals at these links:

Thank you for keeping South Carolina beautiful!

Kelly Thorvalson, Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager
Kate Dittloff, Public Relations Manager
South Carolina Aquarium

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

19 patients being treated by Sea Turtle Rescue Program

Caring for 19 sea turtle patients and many green sea turtle hatchlings has left virtually no time to keep the blog updated! Luckily, much of this busy time for the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue Program has been documented on YouTube, the Aquarium's Facebook Page, by the media, and on Barb Bergwerf's website. Below are several links that we encourage you to visit to learn all that has been going on in the last month!

Two late green sea turtle nests from Garden City were incubated indoors by the SC Department of Natural Resources so they wouldn't perish when cold weather set in. In early December, the first "round" of hatchlings (56) were cared for in our Sea Turtle Hospital. Read about their release at The second round of hatchlings (38) currently being cared for are awaiting cooperative weather for an offshore release.

The little Kemp's ridley, May, that was injured by a boat propeller (photo below on right was just after admitted) in May 2010 was released in early December to make room for cold-stunned turtles. May was joined by two rehabilitated VA sea turtles (photo below on left) and one GA sea turtle for a multi-facility release. Read all about it in the Post and Courier:

Kate Dittloff, the Aquarium's Public Relations Manager, put together a great video of the arrival of the 14 cold-stunned sea turtles from NC on December 13 and a couple of photos are below:

An article ran in the Wall Street Journal online on December 15, just two days after the sea turtles arrived from NC:

National Geographic blogged the arrival and treatment of the cold-stunned sea turtles. See this blog here:

Just after the Aquarium admitted more turtles than ever before, a local cold-stunned sea turtle arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium on December 16: The first two photos are of Frosty being admitted and the second two are of the progression of the frostbite on the left front flipper.

And an update on January 11, 2011 from the Post and Courier:

You can always keep up with the Sea Turtle Rescue Program on long time volunteer and photographer, Barbara Bergwerf's website at

If ever there is a time to visit the South Carolina Aquarium and Sea Turtle Hospital, it would be now! The hatchlings and a few of the cold stunned turtles are going to be released in the next few weeks. All tour information is on the Aquarium's website.

Huge thanks to SC Department of Natural Resources staff and everyone else involved in the rescue, transport, treatment and continued care for these sea turtles. Your endless efforts are truly amazing! And many thanks to all of our supporters - we couldn't do what we do without you!

Kelly Thorvalson

Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager