Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hypothermic Sea Turtles Receive Private Flight to the South Carolina Aquarium

Private pilots in the Charleston area stepped up once again to help transfer endangered sea turtles in need of medical care. On December 5th, Gary Davis, pilot and owner of Davis Air, Inc. and pilot Neal McCann, transported 10 endangered sea turtles from Boston, MA to Charleston, SC to help lighten the load of the New England Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Program. The juvenile sea turtles, 8 Kemp's ridleys and 2 greens, were among over 150 that stranded along Cape Cod Bay in the largest cold stunning event in New England's history. This flight makes 3 times in the recent years that Charleston private pilots have helped transfer endangered sea turtles.

Gary Davis, Kelly Thorvalson, and Neal McCann in front of the Beechcraft King Air turboprop just before takeoff on Tuesday afternoon. 
At Norwood Airport just outside of Boston, MA, sea turtles were loaded onto the aircraft by New England Aquarium rescue staff Adam and Casey and South Carolina Aquarium staff Kelly Thorvalson. Pilots Gary and Neal packed the boxes safely into the plane.
In the air at approximately 21,000 feet, it was an extremely comfortable ride for the turtles. 

After the four hour flight from Boston to Charleston, the sea turtles were loaded into the Aquarium's husbandry van and transported to the Sea Turtle Hospital where they received physical examinations, blood work, radiographs, antibiotic injections, and fluid therapy to combat dehydration. Space is slim at the hospital and the turtles are small so they are sharing tanks. Dividers were installed to separate the solitary creatures so that when they start feeling feisty again, the biting that would normally occur is kept at bay.

Offloading the turtles for the transfer to the Aquarium.
Once at the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital, turtles were sorted by number and needs.

Physical examinations on all patients: Although fluids were administered pre-flight, the turtles were mildy dehydrated. Many are thin and have lesions on their plastrons. 
Medical diagnostics and treatments included blood work, x-rays, fluids, and antibiotic injections.
Four of the ten juvenile sea turtles in their new home away from home.
Because cold-stunning of sea turtles rarely occurs off the SC coast, the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program serves as a back-up facility for those areas that become inundated with the hypothermic reptiles. So far, 36 patients have been admitted to the Aquarium's hospital this year, a new record for the program. Currently, 18 sea turtles are receiving care.

Patient profiles and names are pictured here. The turtles will eventually be posted to the main hospital page so be sure to check back to learn about specific ailments and treatments.

A big thank you to pilots Gary Davis and Neal McCann of Davis Air, Inc. for donating the flight to help these animals! We are extremely grateful for their generous donation. Also thanks to Dr. Jose Biascoechea for his assistance with admission of these turtles. Anyone that is interested in visiting the Sea Turtle Hospital to see the patients can reserve a space on one of the regularly scheduled behind-the-scenes tours M, W, F, Sat and Sun at 11:30am and 1pm by calling the Aquarium's reservation desk at 843-720-1990.

All our best to the New England Aquarium team for their tireless efforts to help the sea turtles stranding on their shores. Visit their Marine Animal Rescue blog to learn more.

Follow these media links to see more on the turtle transfer:
Post and Courier 
News 2
Also, keep up with all the latest news from the South Carolina Aquarium on Facebook!

Happy Holidays!
Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager