Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gumby is growing and thriving

If you haven’t seen Gumby since this summer, you wouldn’t recognize him. This feisty and aggressive loggerhead no longer bears any resemblance to the little sea turtle that floated nearly motionless at the surface of his tank when he was admitted. Months of intensive treatment which included daily calcium supplementation, daily trips outside for sun baths to allow for dermal synthesis of vitamin D, and a strict diet high in calcium and vitamin D, have successfully resolved Gumby’s severe metabolic bone disease.

Upon arrival, Gumby could not feed on his own and had to be tong fed.
Gumby is now very aggressive during feedings.
Charleston Veterinary Referral Center, which has donated multiple diagnostic CT and MRI scans for our sick and injured sea turtles, welcomed Gumby for a CT scan on December 1st. The CT scan allowed us to measure Gumby’s bone density, and we are thrilled to report that it is now within normal range.

Gumby goes for CT scan
3-D CT scan
Although our treatment has strengthened Gumby’s skeletal system, we do have several concerns regarding his overall fitness and potential for release back into the wild. Pathological fractures are always a concern with severe cases of metabolic bone disease, and recent radiographs confirm that Gumby’s femurs (thigh bones) and metacarpals (wrist bones) are bowed. Additionally, Gumby’s pectoral girdle, which consists of the bones that anchor the critically important pectoral swimming muscles, is poorly developed. These abnormalities are likely the result of the poor husbandry and inadequate diet we suspect this little turtle endured before he stranded on a Kiawah beach last June. 

X-ray comparison from admission to November 2011
On a positive note, Gumby has more than doubled in size since last June, and his overall demeanor has improved drastically. He is enjoying a large tank with a sea bass for a tank mate, and we continue our efforts to enrich his life and improve his health. If it’s been a few months since you’ve seen this amazing little loggerhead, come by the Aquarium for a visit! When he’s up to his usual antics, this charismatic little turtle never fails to elicit smiles and laughter.

"Come see me!"
Christi Hughes 
Sea Turtle Biologist