You can't miss Little River when you visit the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital - "she" is the one splashing water across the room! This juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was admitted to the hospital in May of 2011 with 3 propeller strikes in her shell. She is extremely lucky to be alive since the fractures cut deeply across the vertebral scutes.
Periodically, we find Little River resting at the bottom of her tank, floating on one side (see photo below). Of greater concern to hospital staff is the limited use of her rear flippers, indicating that she has suffered spinal damage from the strikes. While most sea turtle patients use their rear flippers to aid in moving around their holding pools, Little River’s rear flippers remain motionless when she swims. This is partially why she splashes so much as she swims to the water's surface to take a breath of air. It isn't until someone physically stimulates the rear flippers or shell that we see that she actually CAN move them. Upon touch, she draws her rear flippers into her body and moves them a bit more.
The two videos below allow for comparison of rear flipper movement by Little River and another loggerhead currently being treated at the Sea Turtle Hospital, Hamlin Creek.
We are working with Little River to increase rear flipper movement by providing alternative therapies such as physical therapy, shell stimulation, and electroacupuncture (thanks to Dr. Steve Canion). However, having limited movement in the rear flippers would not keep Little River from eventually being released back into the wild. When Dr. Boylan and hospital staff deem her strong enough to survive on her own, she will be set free. In the meantime, check back here to find video of how Little River is responding to therapies!