Friday, October 26, 2012

Third Sea Turtle Admitted To Sea Turtle Rescue Program Within A Week

On Tuesday evening, October 23nd,  naturalists from Kiawah's Night Heron Nature Center were finishing a tour when they noticed something floating near the dock at Mingo Point. As they drew closer, they realized it was a small endangered green sea turtle. The little green was transported by Charlotte Hope from SCDNR to the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital. Weighing only 1.9kg (4lbs), "Mini Ming" is the smallest green ever admitted into the Sea Turtle Rescue Program!

Blood gas values weren't too alarming but did show signs of dehydration. We will continue to monitor these levels due to lethargic behavior and state when initially rescued. Treatments included antibiotic and vitamin injections as well as fluid therapy to resolve dehydration. X-rays revealed a full GI tract and bone lysis in the left carpus. After treatments, Mini Ming was transferred to a small shallow water pool over night.

Scratches and moderate barnacle coverage of Mini Ming's carapace.

Taking a good breathe after being prepped for blood draw.
Biologist Whitney drawing blood. Blood gas values give details on Mini Ming's current state and to determine proper treatment.
Staff uses a doppler to get a heart rate.
Normsol fluids were administered using a catheter through the axillary region.
X-ray showing food in the GI tract and bone lysis to the left carpus.
Mini Ming, happy to be back in water after triage.

Mini Ming is now enjoying a larger tank and is resting comfortably at the bottom. We are not sure why the turtle was floating in the waters at Mingo Point but do know that it is what saved his/her life. Come visit Mini Ming and the other patients currently under the South Carolina Aquarium's care by taking one of our behind-the-scenes hospital tours. Huge thanks to the naturalists from Night Heron Nature Center and SCDNR for their help and assistance in the rescue and transport of Mini Ming!
Whitney Daniel 
Sea Turtle Biologist

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two New Patients Admitted into Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital

On Sunday, October 14th, a boater in the Folly River witnessed a small sea turtle being hit by the boat just ahead of him and was, fortunately, able to come to its rescue. Affectionately named Ollie from Folly, the 4.4 kg (~10 pound) endangered green sea turtle was transported by SC Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist, Charlotte Hope, and was quite subdued during transport and admission.

Treatment included pain medication, antibiotic and vitamin injections, fluid therapy, and wound flushing. The turtle was intubated because it was not breathing on its own for several hours. Although the turtle was left in dry dock the first two nights, s/he is now residing in a filtered tank with a low water level.

The boat strike fractured the skull from the nares (nostrils) to the mandible (upper jaw).
In addition to the fresh wounds on the anterior portion of the carapace, there are also several old wounds present on the posterior part of the shell and plastron.
A combination of severe injuries and pain medication slowed Ollie's breathing considerably. The turtle was intubated so staff could breath for him during admission.
Fluids were administered through a catheter in the axillary region of the body.
Ollie was left on a ventilator overnight because he wasn't breathing on his own.

On Friday, October 19th, a 44kg (~100 pound) loggerhead was captured in the net of a research vessel being operated by the SCDNR SEAMAP program just outside of North Island. The turtle sustained two puncture wounds from the barbs of stingrays that were caught in the same net and suffered severe blood loss as a result. Through the evening, the vessel made its way to Charleston, arriving at approximately 11pm. Needless to say, it was a late night for the rescue team!

Angry sea turtles don't like to stop moving, so it was a battle to get the bleeding stopped. Constant pressure was applied to the wounds (it was primarily the front flipper wound that kept bleeding). Because of blood loss, the turtle suffered from a very low PCV and blood protein; therefore, hetastarch fluids were administered IV. In addition, sodium chloride was administered subcutaneously and antibiotics and vitamins were given.

All attempts were made to keep the turtle quiet and to stop the bleeding from the wound on the ventral side of the front right flipper.

The barb wound to the ventral side of the right front flipper is indicated in this photo.

Wounds were examined and treated, blood taken, and supportive care given to the turtle.
Both turtles are now residing in filtered tanks in the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital. You can follow the progress of these patients and all the sea turtles being treated in our Sea Turtle Hospital here. Huge thanks to all involved in the rescue of these injured sea turtles and to Barbara Bergwerf for her neverending photographic support.

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Eddie Suffers from Intestinal Coccidia Infection

Little Eddie, a green sea turtle rescued from Edisto's waters in late August, is feisty and enjoying a shallow tank of filtered water in our Sea Turtle Hospital. However, he is still fighting a tendency for his rear end to float. The video below was taken last week and shows that Eddie’s buoyancy issue has improved since admittance (see admittance blog with video here) but still remains problematic.

When Eddie was admitted, his inability to dive led us to suspect he had an intestinal impaction that was causing excess gas in his GI tract. We’ve been monitoring the progress of his GI tract for about 7 weeks now via a tube-fed contrast agent (see photo) and a regular series of x-rays. While he has passed most of the gas and has had fairly regular fecals, Eddie’s caudal end is still positively buoyant.

Eddie's mouth is gently held open while he is tube-fed a contrast agent.
Our veterinarian, Dr. Shane Boylan, orients Eddie on the cassette for an x-ray.
Luckily, a recent routine microscopic exam of Eddie’s poop revealed the presence of the coccidian parasite Caryospora cheloniae, which is specific to green sea turtles. This parasite is known to cause severe inflammation of the intestinal tract and may be at least partially responsible for the impaction-like symptoms we are seeing in this turtle. Eddie has now begun receiving an oral medication to treat this infection every other day and, luckily, he swallows his medication hidden in a bit of fish like a champ!

Eddie has tolerated his various treatments well, and we are hopeful he'll make a full recovery.
Eddie is a challenging case, but we are exploring all of our options to treat this turtle and are hopeful he will make a full recovery while overwintering in our hospital. Please wish Eddie well as he struggles to overcome his health issues!

Christi Hughes
Sea Turtle Biologist

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Charleston Day School Students Raise over $5,000 with a Read-a-Thon!

With Charleston Day School 3rd grade teachers Kerry Plitnick and Emily Shortridge at the helm, students are learning the importance of sea turtles, healthy oceans, and giving back to the community. Students at Charleston Day have been supporting sick and injured sea turtles since 2009 and for the second year in a row, have held a read-a-thon that raised thousands for the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital. This year alone, 28 third graders raised $5,349!

Students present the "big check" to Sea Turtle Rescue Program Staff.

Thanks to these 28 third graders, we are able to provide medical care to more sick and injured sea turtles. Thank you, kids!!!
The Love the Loggerheads Read-a-thon was first developed by Kate Byrd, Librarian of Belton Elementary in South Carolina's upstate and has proven to be extremely successful, not only in raising funds to help sick and injured sea turtles in our hospital but in achieving what schools want from children, for them to read more! If you are interested in hosting a read-a-thon for your class or your child's class, please contact Kelly Thorvalson at

Thank you for your support!