Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Stranding Moves from Intensive Care Ward

The severely debilitated loggerhead admitted to the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital on May 20th was barely alive when it first arrived. The young adult sea turtle affectionately named "Briar" after the stranding location in Myrtle Beach, received intensive care for 5 days. This consistent, supportive care in a quiet out-of-the-way tank helped this turtle make it through the roughest part of rehab.

Shane and I prepared to transfer the turtle from the SCDNR truck.
Briar was so lethargic that she could not hold her head up during the transfer. Jenna Cormany of SCDNR helped to stabilize her head.
Dr. Boylan and crew moved Briar by elevator to the Animal Medical Facility on the Aquarium's first floor.
Emaciation and a heavy barnacle load are typical external signs of a severely debilitated sea turtle. The internal medical problems are much more numerous. 
In addition to being extremely sick, Briar has what looks like an old break in the front right flipper causing it to "hook".

Weights and measurements were taken and neck was "sterilized" with betadine to pull blood.

Once in the Animal Medical Facility, Briar received a basic health assessment which would guide Dr. Boylan's treatment plan. This assessment included obtaining a heart rate, evaluating blood work, a physical examination and getting weights and measurements. The heart rate was extremely low at 6 beats per minute and blood work was also extremely poor with a glucose of 1, hematocrit level of 7%, and total solids 2.9. These numbers validate what we thought when we first saw the turtle - the animal was barely alive.

The heart rate is obtained by dopplar, pressing the probe to the soft tissue between the head and neck.

Fluid therapy is an important part of supportive care given to the patients in our Sea Turtle Hospital. Briar received Hetastartch IV as well as 5% Dextrose and Normosol subcutaneously (photos above).

The video below was taken just after Briar was put in a tank of shallow water. 

Huge thanks to turtle rescuer, Brett and North Myrtle Beach turtle lady extraordinaire, Linda Mataya who drove the turtle to Georgetown, and to SCDNR for coordinating and finishing the transport. Also to our extraordinary staff, volunteers and interns that make up the Sea Turtle Rescue Team at the Aquarium. This turtle now has a good prognosis because of your efforts!

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

First Beach Release of 2013 on May 23rd at Isle of Palms County Park!

In partnership with the SC Department of Natural Resources and Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, the South Carolina Aquarium will be releasing 5 rehabilitated sea turtles at the Isle of Palms County Park on May 23rd at 4 pm. The public is invited to watch as a Kemp’s ridley, 2 loggerheads and 2 green sea turtles rejoin sea turtle populations in the Atlantic Ocean.  County Park parking fees apply and carpooling is strongly encouraged as traffic will be heavy into the park.

Birdie is a Kemp's ridley from South Carolina (Bird Key) that was found by a fisherman entangled in monofilament fishing line. We are grateful to so many boaters and fishermen that find these sick and injured animals in the water and bring them to safety.
Birdie had monofilament entangled around the neck and left front and rear flippers.
The worst of the entanglements was the left knee. The fishing line had wrapped multiple times around the joint, cutting deeply into the skin.
Had the fisherman not found the turtle when he did, Birdie may have lost the rear flipper and ultimately his life. Birdie has now fully recovered and his limbs are in great condition!

Manteo, a loggerhead, was one of almost 80 sea turtles that cold-stunned off the North Carolina coast this past winter. In an effort to help NC facilities that were overrun with patients, Manteo was one of three loggerheads to be admitted to the South Carolina Aquarium and is the last of the three to be released.

Profile shot of the lethargic, cold-stunned Manteo.
A healthy Manteo getting weighed in our Sea Turtle Hospital.
Taylor is a loggerhead that cold-stunned off the New England coast this past winter. When the New England Aquarium was swamped with cold-stunned sea turtles this winter, Taylor and several Kemp's ridleys flew first class to Charleston in a Cheyenne Turbo Prop donated by owner and pilot Michael Taylor. When Taylor was first admitted, he had a heart rate of only 8 beats per minute and was very ill. It took him a month to begin eating.

Taylor right off the plane.
Taylor had many lesions and cuts on the soft tissue and plastron. We are thrilled that he has made a full recovery and is ready for release!

Barney and McCann
These two juvenile green sea turtles cold-stunned off the New England coast in December 2012 and were flown to the South Carolina Aquarium by pilot Gary Davis of Davis Air, Inc. and copilot Neal McCann. These once cold, lethargic sea turtles have transformed into strong, wild animals. We love seeing how feisty the turtles get when they are feeling better!

Barney just after he arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium.

Barney (left) and tankmate, Bristol (right), in the Aquairum's Sea Turtle Hospital. The greens have such beautiful starburst pattens on their scutes! 
McCann, named after co-pilot Neal McCann, has made a quick recovery.
Several months after arrival, a feisty McCann is taken out of his tank for weights and measurements.
 Tips for having a great sea turtle release:
  • Come out as early as possible (as much as 2 hours early) so you get a good parking place and a good spot on the ropes. The beach is a wonderful place to be!
  • Plan to pay for County Park parking fees.
  • The releases are usually very well attended and traffic gets very heavy. Carpool to lessen the traffic coming onto the Isle of Palms and into the County Park. 
  • Look for people wearing yellow Sea Turtle Rescue shirts and ask lots of questions about the program and turtles being released.
  • Bring water in a reusable water bottle.
  • Bring a camera and take lots of photos!
We hope to see you there!
Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager

Friday, May 10, 2013

Girl Scout Troop #699 Holds Festival to Benefit the Sea Turtle Rescue Program!

Come out to Cinebarre in Mt. Pleasant this Saturday, May 11th for a Sea Turtle Festival held by Girl Scout Troop #699 starting at 5PM! Enjoy food, crafts, face painting and an outdoor movie starting at dusk with all proceeds benefiting the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program.

Hope to see you there!
Whitney Daniel

Friday, May 3, 2013

First Live SC Strandings of 2013 Admitted to the South Carolina Aquarium

Admitted on Monday, April 22, this little green sea turtle was covered in barnacles, algae and a thick layer of sand from getting pounded in the surf. The beach workers/rakers on Myrtle Beach that found the endangered turtle were very concerned and went to great lengths to shield "Raker" from the cold winds while they waited for help to arrive. Linda Mataya from the North Myrtle Beach turtle team transported the sick turtle to McClellanville where she was met by SCDNR's Lisa Scarano, who drove him/her the rest of the way to the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital.

The 3.4 kg juvenile green sea turtle hardly moved during admission.
Raker's internal body temperature at the time of admission was 58.1 degrees F which doesn't bode well for a cold-blooded reptile. Due to the animal's poor health, the heart rate was only about 12 beats per minute. In addition to the heavy bioload on the carapace, the turtle sustained severe corneal abrasions on the left eye and it was evident that a secondary infection was present on his/her carapace (shell) between the keratin and bone.

Profile of Raker: you can see soft tissue lesions, the injured eye and algae growth.
I weighed and measured the turtle while Lisa recorded the data.
After measurements and preliminary blood work were taken, Birds and Exotics Vet Dr. Jose Biascoechea guided treatment for the new patient. Raker's core body temperature was consistently monitored and raised at a slow pace of 0.5-1 degree per hour.

Dr. Biascoechea administering subcutaneous fluids.
Dr. Biascoechea and I go over the treatment plan for Raker. Good luck little one!
Raker was really touch and go for three days. The heart rate fluctuated greatly and s/he wasn't taking breaths as often as s/he should, so the blood CO2 levels increased. Oxygen was added to the long list of supportive care and the turtle finally started to show some improvement on Thursday (3 days after admission). For more details and updates on Raker's status, go his/her hospital page.

Captain Gresh Megget of Absolute Reel Screamer Charters came across a juvenile green sea turtle in Folly River by Crosby's Seafood on Saturday, April 28. Captain Gresh describes the turtle as covered in barnacles and algae, floating, and swimming in circles. The captain and guests recognized that the turtle was in distress and brought the animal to the Folly Beach boat landing where SCDNR's Jenna Cormany met them for the transfer.

Crosby's rescuer, Captain Gresh at the dock after the rescue.
In addition to being very lethargic with poor blood work and dehydration, the 4kg juvenile green has several external wounds on the carapace and plastron.

The turtle arrived at the South Carolina Aquarium just as the 6th Annual Environmental Stewardship Gala was about to begin. Reminiscent of the Gala 3 years ago, I was able to help admit the turtle just before heading out to enjoy the amazing event on the Aquarium's front lawn.
LEFT: Loggerhead admission on evening of 2010 Environmental Stewardship Awards Gala; RIGHT: Green admission on evening of 2013 Environmental Stewardship Awards Gala.
SCDNR stranding volunteer/Sea Turtle Hospital volunteer Barb Gobien, applies triple antibiotic ointment to the plastron wounds.

Whitney and Barb take Crosby's heart rate.
Dr. Shane Boylan does a full physical examination, including inspecting the mouth. Supportive care included fluids, antibiotics, vitamins and wound care.
Crosby is in fair condition after several days of treatment. Be sure to check out the medical page to keep up with his/her progress!
Huge thanks to the rescuers and all involved in the transporting and care of these sick sea turtles. Each step is critical in their survival. As the weather warms and sea turtles move into our coastal waters, it is important to be on the lookout for sea turtles in distress. To notify someone of a sick, injured or dead sea turtle, call the SCDNR stranded sea turtle hotline at 1-800-922-5431. And while you are out on the beaches this summer, be sure to pick up any litter you find and keep the beach as safe as possible for our nesting females and hatchlings!
Best wishes,
Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager