Thursday, June 21, 2012

Second sea turtle admitted in two days

On June 18th, a 56-pound juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was caught near Bulls Bay by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) research vessel, the Lady Lisa. The Lady Lisa is one of two vessels used for the SCDNR In-water research program that assesses the health and population status of sea turtles along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts via trawling. The turtle suffered a minor wound to the soft tissues surrounding the eye from a stingray barb. Initial blood values analyzed on the boat were less than what we consider normal for a healthy sea turtle (packed cell volume=25%, total solids=1). Due to the puncture wound, poor blood values, and moderately heavy barnacle coverage, this loggerhead was transferred to our sea turtle hospital with help from the crew of the Lady Lisa and the Principle Investigator of the in-water program, Mike Arendt.

Mike Arendt and crew delivering "Bulls" at Ft. Johnson to SCA staff to be transported to the sea turtle hospital.
Dr. Shane Boylan drawing blood to check current blood values.
Close look of the puncture wound to the soft tissue surrounding Bulls' eye.
Dr. Shane Boylan checking Bulls' eye to rule out any damage potentially sustained from the barb.
After arriving at the hospital, “Bulls Bay” was examined by our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan. Bulls’ prescribed treatment included antibiotics, fluids, and a fluorescein eye stain. Bulls was fortunate enough not to sustain any damage to the eye from the stingray barb. We will continue to monitor the wound and Bulls blood values, especially the white blood cell count which can become elevated from the venom released from the barb. Prognosis if very good and we are hoping for a quick recovery! You can monitor Bulls’ progress here or come see first-hand on one of our tours!
Whitney Daniel
Sea Turtle Biologist

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Loggerhead caught on Folly Pier admitted with shark bite wound

Yesterday morning, a recreational fisherman at the Folly Beach fishing pier caught something unexpected: a 60-pound juvenile loggerhead sea turtle. The fisherman netted the turtle in order to remove the boom from its mouth and, upon closer inspection, discovered the turtle had a large bite-shaped chunk missing from the back of its shell.

This bite-shaped wound was observed on the right side of Pier's shell. The right rear flipper is visible in the photo.
Although the fishing hook was safely removed, the conspicuous shell wound was actively bleeding. Thanks to efforts by Charleston County Parks & Recreation and Folly Beach Public Safety, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources sea turtle stranding hotline was contacted at 1-800-922-5431. Shannon Teders, Biologist for the South Carolina Aquarium and member of the Folly nesting and stranding network, responded to the stranding and transported the turtle to the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital.

Inspection of the shell wound by our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan, revealed that the injury had occurred at least one month prior to admission. Wild sea turtles can be surprisingly resilient and, despite the considerable carapace damage, this juvenile loggerhead we’ve named “Pier” is in relatively good health. Pier’s heart rate was strong at 36 beats per minute, his blood values were normal (PCV=36%, TS=3.2), and radiographs revealed no hooks or other radiodense foreign bodies present internally.

Dr. Shane Boylan took digital x-rays of Pier to rule out the presence of internal hooks, as well as to verify Pier's lungs were clear and his skeletal system was free of problems.
Pier's beak and visible mouth parts were inspected for damage. Loggerheads have a strong beak with immense bite force designed to eat hard-shelled prey.

SCA intern, Meredith Bleuer, and staff Biologist, Whitney Daniel, obtain Pier's carapace measurements. 
Pier’s prognosis is good, and we are hoping for a quick recovery. You may follow Pier's progress on our hospital page here. Come visit this feisty loggerhead in our hospital during one of our regularly scheduled tours and wish him well as he recovers!

Pier is lucky the damage wasn't more extensive. He swims well with all four flippers and is extremely active!
Christi Hughes
Sea Turtle Biologist

Monday, June 11, 2012

152-pound loggerhead admitted into South Carolina Aquarium

A 69 kg (152 lb) loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) was captured on June 7 by the SC Department of Natural Resources In-Water Program as part of an ongoing health and population assessment of sea turtles in the Western Atlantic. The turtle was caught just north of the Charleston Channel and suffered puncture wounds from the barb of a stingray captured in the same net. Thanks to the quick response to the team aboard the Lady Lisa research vessel, the animal was taken to shore and transported to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital where it could receive treatment and monitoring of the wounds.

 "Charlie" is a beautiful loggerhead with healthy body score, excellent blood values (PCV 38%, TS 4.0), and a tail length that suggests this animal may be a male moving into maturity. Test are being performed to measure the level of testosterone in the blood which should give a definitive gender identity.

A ceftazadime (antibiotic) injection was administered. Blood gas values showed a minor acidosis (moderate lactates at 7.43 mmol/L) which was treated with bicarb in subcutaneous fluids.
Radiographs show a variety of radiodense materials like crab parts and snail shells in the gastrointestinal tract.
The 4" stingray barb was embedded in the front left flipper at the joint and punctured the ventral side of the neck.
The wounds were flushed well with sterile saline.
After all medical treatments were administered, Charlie was taken down into the Sea Turtle Hospital where he met Dewees, another loggerhead undergoing rehabilitation.
Bloodwork will be closely followed to watch the white blood cell count which often swings after stingray barb venom is released in the animal's tissue. Wounds will be monitored for necrosing tissue as a result of the "sting". Hopefully the exceptional health of this turtle will aid in healing these wounds quickly!

Visit Charlie and the other patients at the Sea Turtle Hospital. Tour days and times are listed here. Hope to see you soon!
Kelly Thorvalson

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

News from Lexi, Sea Turtle Hospital Intern

Hello sea turtle lovers! My name is Lexi and I am lucky enough to be one of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle  Rescue Program interns this summer. While we as interns have many different responsibilities around the hospital, one very exciting thing we get to do every week is to spend a day working “in the field” protecting sea turtle nests. This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, where loggerhead sea turtle nesting density is really high. My day began at 4:45 a.m. with a 45-minute drive out to Garris Landing and another 20 minute ride out to the dock in McClellanville. But let me tell you, the haul was worth it! I got to see the sun come up over the marsh and was welcomed by a dolphin in the tidal creek on the way out to the barrier islands.  I kept thinking to myself, is this real life?

A girl who works with the SC Department of Natural Resources and I were dropped off at the first island, Lighthouse. We were left with our backpacks, some poles, buckets, a shovel, nest cages, and the keys to the four-wheeler. Once we got the four-wheeler loaded, we traveled to the far end of the beach and scouted for nests on our way. We relocated the nests as we worked our way back.  Each nest is buried a little over a foot underground and carries a range of 80 to 120+ eggs.  The eggs seemed quite fragile, resembling deflated ping-pong balls. Once we carefully dug them up and place them gently in the bucket, we reburied the eggs safely above the high tide line, usually around some vegetated dunes.  After we buried them, we placed a cage over the nest. This keeps predators such as raccoons and crabs out, but still allows the baby turtles to crawl out of the nest once they hatch.  We had five nests total, and relocated four of them.

You can tell by the flipper marks where the turtle crawled in from the water and where the crawled out of the nesting site.  You can also tell by the flipper marks if the female turtle had a “stumpy” flipper (where it could have been injured a boat or predator). Interestingly enough, the only nest that we did not have to relocate was created by a “stumpy” female turtle! This just goes to show you how amazing these guys are and how strong their instincts are to fulfill their “goal” of reproducing, no matter what the struggle. 

It’s such a great feeling being able to help the species fulfill this goal by increasing the likelihood that the hatchlings make it through the incubation process and back out to the ocean. This was so much fun for me and I can’t wait to go back to Cape Romain!
Alexis (Lexi)