Monday, July 25, 2011

Kemp's ridley with boat strike wounds caught by fisherman

It was his lucky day. On Saturday morning, the 7-pound endangered Kemp’s ridley took the bait of a fisherman at Battery Park who recognized that the turtle needed medical attention. Although the fisherman was able to remove the hook from the turtle’s mouth fairly easily, boat strike wounds were evident in the shell and skull.

Once admitted into the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, diagnostic tests were performed. Bloodwork revealed anemia (PCV 14%), low total protein (1.9), and lactic acidosis (almost 15), and a broken right humerus showed up on x-ray. Initial treatments included antibiotic and vitamin injections, fluid therapy and bicarbonate.

The sea turtle affectionately named “Battery” after the location he was caught, has wounds that look familiar to hospital staff. As seen in the comparison photos below, Battery and the loggerhead admitted last week, Yawkey, endured boat strikes in the same areas and both have broken flippers from the strikes. Although we can see similarities in injuries, the age and severity of the wounds are different. Battery's wounds are a bit older and some healing has already occurred. It is safe to say that this turtle will survive. Yawkey's wounds are fresh and have caused a great deal of internal bleeding. Unlike Battery, this animal is not out of the woods just yet.

Be sure to check back to the sea turtle cases on the hospital page for updates on our patients.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Photo blog of July 12th sea turtle release

Three rehabilitated sea turtles were released into the ocean on Kiawah Island last week for a total of 77 released from the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program. When the turtles arrived on Tuesday at 11am, they were greeted by a wonderful crowd gathered along the ropes, eagerly awaiting their arrival. Thanks to all for coming out on this very special day on such short notice! For those that couldn't make it, enjoy the photos below.

We are always very excited to meet folks from all over SC and bordering states that drive to Charleston for the sea turtle releases. Last week, we met folks that actually flew into Charleston and found their way out to Kiawah Island for the event. One of our Stranded Sea Turtle Adoptive Parents flew in from Ohio to attend the release. Thank your for your support and please send a photo to the turtle rescue inbox. We would love to post it!

The furthest traveled for the release were a mother and son (pictured below) that flew in from Michigan to watch the beloved sea turtles go back into the ocean ... simply amazing!

"Lisa" was released by SC Department of Natural Resources Sea Turtle Coordinator, DuBose Griffin and NOAA's Jeff Brown. DuBose manages the SCDNR's Marine Turtle Conservation Program and is the primary permit holder for sea turtles in South Carolina. Thanks for all you do for sea turtles in our state, DuBose!

"Grice" was released by 2 of her rescuers, Justin Jay and Jenna Cormany, who work with the SCDNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program. These are two of several DNR staffers that spend many hours on the road transporting sick and injured sea turtles from their stranding area to our hospital for medical care. Thanks for all you do guys!

"Bennett", the very feisty adult Kemp's ridley sea turtle, was released by our two amazing, always smiling interns, Kate Bender and Kathryn Sobcyzk. Thanks for your tireless efforts in the hospital this summer, especially the 12 hour days and the midnight shifts!

It has been a big year for releases so far and we look forward to having at least one or two more before the cold weather comes upon us in the fall. Keep an eye out for the next release - we hope to see you there!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barrington survives brain surgery

Although Barrington is still in the early stages of recovery, watching him navigate around his tank of shallow water gives us hope that the brain surgery he underwent last Thursday was successful. During his first month in our hospital, Barrington’s body quickly recovered from the severe keratin loss on his soft tissues and head. However, his demeanor was poor and he began exhibiting worsening neurological symptoms indicative of brain trauma. Barrington typically floated motionless in his tank, reacted very painfully during treatments, exhibited odd motor skills (his body tensed up completely when he was handled and he wouldn’t use his front flippers to swim), and began twisting his head up and to the left when agitated.

Thanks to Dr. Jason King and his accommodating staff at the Charleston Veterinary Referral Clinic, Barrington received a CT scan and an MRI on July 12th. The CT scan was instrumental in identifying the likely cause of Barrington’s neurological symptoms: a large bone fragment had been shoved downward toward the brain from blunt force trauma to the top of the skull. Although brain surgery had never been performed on a sea turtle at our facility, removing the bone fragment was necessary to save Barrington’s life.

On July 14th our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan, was joined by Dr.’s Nora Schmidt and Cheri Ristau (pictured below) who volunteered their time to assist with Barrington’s experimental surgery. A newly donated Stryker saw, a crucial tool for precision bone cutting, was used to remove a triangular portion of the top of the skull, and the bone fragment was extracted intact. However, we began to worry when Barrington failed to start breathing on his own and his heart rate remained depressed more than twelve hours after surgery. Recovery efforts by STH staff and interns continued until after 3:00 A.M. the next morning.
Today, Barrington has regained some use of his front flippers and is behaving more and more like a normal loggerhead. His muscles no longer remain contracted when we handle him, and he tolerates antibiotic injections well. Although he still twists his head up and to the left on occasion, his neurological symptoms are less severe than they were before the surgery. This resilient loggerhead still has a long way to go before we even begin considering releasing him back into the wild, but we are willing to be patient and let his recovery occur at a turtle’s pace (as it should). Come visit Barrington in our hospital and wish him well as he continues to heal from brain surgery.

Christi Hughes, Sea Turtle Biologist

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sea turtles being released on Tuesday, July 12!

The public is invited to join the South Carolina Aquarium for some summer fun at the beach to watch the release of 3 threatened and endangered sea turtles! The release will be held at 11am on Tuesday, July 12 at Beachwalker County Park on Kiawah Island, SC. Come out to see juvenile loggerheads, Grice and Lisa, and an extremely rare adult female Kemp's ridley, Bennett, get released back into the ocean after recovering from various ailments in the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital. County Park parking fees apply and parking is limited so we strongly encourage carpooling.

A little information about each turtle is below but you can find out more about the program and the sea turtles being released by visiting the Sea Turtle Hospital webpage at
Grice, a 66-pound juvenile loggerhead, arrived at the Sea Turtle Hospital with rotting skin ulcerations and leeches all over the soft tissue. She has recovered from her skin issues and anemia extremely quickly.
Lisa, a 68-pound juvenile loggerhead, was caught on board the SCDNR research vessel, RV Lady Lisa, with most of her soft tissue void of the protective keratin layer. She was admitted into the Sea Turtle Hospital primarily because of concern that this was the early stages of the skin ulcerative disease that we have seen so much of this year.

Bennett, the 76-pound adult female Kemp's ridley caught on the RV Lady Lisa, had an unfortunate encounter with a stingray barb that punctured deeply in the soft tissue by the rear flipper. Other than the puncture wound, this turtle was extremely healthy which allowed her to recover in just a month!

We hope all of you will join us to say goodbye to these amazing creatures! Huge thanks to all those that were part of the rescue, rehabilitation and release of these animals, including the SC Department of Natural Resources and Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission. You all are amazing!