Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Endangered Kemp's Ridley Admitted with Severe Entanglements

A 4.5 kg juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtle was rescued late yesterday afternoon from Bird Key  with fishing line tightly entangled around its limbs and neck. The recreational fisherman that found the turtle could tell it was in trouble and scooped it out of the water with a dip net. After a call to the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) hotline and Folly Beach stranding network, Lisa Scarano of SCDNR transported the turtle to the South Carolina Aquarium.

Monofilament fishing line was tightly entangled around the neck and left flippers.
The most severe entanglement is around the left rear flipper. The lines were so tight that the flipper was extremely swollen and deformed.
"Birdie" was freed from the lines and injuries assessed.
The turtle was measured by Caitlin, one of the fall Sea Turtle Rescue Program Interns.
X-rays were taken. The black arrow points to the area of entanglement on the rear flipper. If you look closely at the unaffected rear flipper, you can clearly see the tibia and fibula. On the rear flipper, the tibia is intact but the fibula has severe osteomylitis.
Despite the severe injuries, "Birdie" is very feisty and consistently tried to bite rescue staff! Antibiotic and vitamin injections were administered and wounds were flushed and treated.
We are so grateful for Jonathan, the fisherman that caught the turtle, to the Judi and Shannon on the stranding network that responded so quickly, and to Lisa from SCDNR for making the transfer. It takes a village.  Everyone can do their part in helping sea turtles like "Birdie" by keeping our waterways free of marine debris!

Kelly Thorvalson

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Sea Turtle Release Today on Kiawah!

The South Carolina Aquarium is releasing three sea turtles today! Join us this afternoon (September 19th) at 4:30 P.M. at Beachwalker County Park on Kiawah Island. In partnership with the SC Department of Natural Resources and the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, we will be releasing Dewees, Murray, and Hook. This will bring our total to 97 sea turtles rehabilitated and released from the South Carolina Aquarium! Arriving early and carpoling is strongly encouraged and park parking fees apply.

Dewees: A severely debilitated juvenile loggerhead found floating in Dewees Inlet by Barrier Island Eco Tour guide Courtney, and her husband Jim. At admittance Dewees, was emaciated, dehydrated, lethargic and heavily covered in barnacles.Since being admitted in April, Dewees has gained 15 pounds and has become a visitor favorite on tours.

Comparsion of Dewees since being admitted.
Comparsion of Dewee's carapace.

Hook: A juvenile Kemp's ridley caught in July by a fisherman on hook-and-line at Myrtle Beach State Park. Our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan, was able to remove the hook non-surgically which drastically reduced Hook's stay in the hospital.

Profile view of Hook.
Murray: A juvenile Kemp's Ridley caught by a shore fisherman on Edisto Island last month. Our vet was also able to remove the Murray's hook non-surgically, which resulted in a short stay within our sea turtle hospital.

Profile view of Murray, one of the smallest Kemp's ridleys ever in our care!

We hope to see you all there to help bid farewell to these three amazing sea turtles! Please remember county park parking fees apply and parking is limited.

Whitney Daniel

Friday, September 7, 2012

Green Sea Turtle Admitted with Severe Intestinal Blockage

Imagine, if you will, a very large, darkly colored cork bobbing around in the coastal waters along a picturesque stretch of beach in South Carolina. This is essentially what a volunteer turtle patroller from the town of Edisto Beach saw when she first spotted Eddie, a juvenile green sea turtle who was admitted into our hospital on August 26th. Visibly bloated and full of excess intestinal gas, Eddie was alert and active but unable to dive below the surface. This buoyancy issue is a huge problem for an animal designed to eat seagrasses and algae that proliferate on the sea floor.

Eddie is a testament to the resiliency of sea turtles in the wild. During his physical exam, we noticed this juvenile green had been struck by a boat earlier this year but had healed quite well without medical intervention. With the exception of the flotation disorder, Eddie was in fairly good health when he was admitted into our hospital. However, there is a strong possibility that this turtle's current buoyancy problem is a complication resulting from this boat strike.

The light-colored line on Eddie's shell (indicated by blue arrow) is healing tissue in the deepest part of the propeller strike.
In 2009, we admitted a green sea turtle named Pawley who presented with essentially the same symptoms as Eddie. X-rays of both turtles showed large loops of gas distended intestines. Although Pawley received intensive treatment - including exploratory surgery - for nearly 3 weeks, he ended up passing due to a complete obstruction of the bowel. Impactions like these are a huge concern for sea turtles worldwide as plastics and other nondigestible materials become more prominent in our oceans. Sea turtles are simply unable to differentiate between food items and trash and, if they consume garbage like bottle caps or balloons, they may end up with an impaction that leads to death.

These plastics, intermixed with jellyfish that look very similar, are floating in a mat of Sargassum. Sargassum is a seaweed that provides food and shelter to a variety of marine animals, including juvenile sea turtles. This photo was taken near Georgetown Hole in 2011 by Nigel Bowers on one of the Aquarium's collecting trips.

Luckily for Eddie, a barium study (performed in-house) and a CT scan donated by the Charleston Veterinary Referral Center have ruled out a complete bowel obstruction. However, we are still unsure what has caused the impaction, as x-rays do not show any foreign objects (certain objects, like plastics, are not visible in x-rays).

Eddie was calm and cooperative during his CT scan thanks to a small dose of a mild sedative.

These are two of the many views we are able to obtain with a CT scan. These scans are much more useful than x-rays as a diagnostic tool as we can view cross-sectional images of different portions of the body. Also, CT scans reveal organs, bones, and soft tissues in greater clarity than x-rays.

Our current treatment regimen is focused on increasing the motility of the gut to encourage the impaction to pass naturally and, so far, Eddie has been passing fecals quite often! We have not found any foreign bodies in Eddie's fecals yet, and he still has a large amount of excess intestinal air that is causing him to bob around like a cork in his tank, but radiographs taken yesterday indicate he is improving. This is great news, as we'd like to avoid surgery to remove the impaction if at all possible.

Eddie receives an enema to encourage his body to pass the contents of his intestinal tract.

Although we are seeing encouraging signs during this initial phase of treatment, Eddie's prognosis is still guarded and surgery may become necessary. Come visit Eddie in our hospital and wish this spunky turtle well as he tries to recover from this severe intestinal obstruction!

Eddie is looking forward to meeting you!

Christi Hughes
Sea Turtle Biologist