On Monday morning, the South Carolina Aquarium received its second stranding of the 2011 season - a severely debilitated loggerhead with a barnacle load greater than ever seen in the facility. The turtle's lethargic state (it was most likely floating in the ocean for quite some time) is what causes the heavy barnacle load.
The loggerhead named Jammer, washed up near the fishing pier on front beach Isle of Palms, SC, just blocks from the popular Windjammer beach club that s/he is named after. This iconic venue has been a local favorite for decades, operating on the island since 1972...even before sea turtles were put on the endangered species list. SCDNR responded to the live stranding and Island Turtle Team members Mary Pringle and Bev Ballow, pulled the turtle from the surf to the safety of the DNR transport vehicle.Upon arrival at the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, weights and measurements were taken and diagnostic tests were performed. The heart rate of a healthy sea turtle is ~30 beats per minute (bpm) but this turtle's heart rate was only 7 bpm, a condition called bradycardia. The turtle is also severely emaciated and dehydrated. As expected, the turtle had very low blood glucose and blood protein levels but the hematocrit (percentage of red blood cells in the blood) was actually close to normal. Sea turtles in this debilitated state are usually severely anemic with a very low hematocrit level, so although puzzled by the result, hospital staff was thrilled to get it.
Treatments include oxygen, fluid therapy, vitamins, and antibiotic injections. After 24 hours of treatment, the turtles heart rate had risen to 24 bpm and respirations were stronger. The prognosis is guarded on this animal but we are doing all we possibly can to save it!
Huge thanks to all involved in this rescue!