Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nine Sea Turtles Admitted in the Last Month

Briar - 5/20/13
Briar was found stranded on Myrtle Beach in an extremely debilitated state. This lethargic, emaciated loggerhead was riddled with health problems and was in critical condition after being admitted. In addition to antibiotics, fluids, vitamins to address blood deficiencies, rescue staff have slowly increased her food intake and she has started putting on weight. A month after her admission, she is even eating live blue crabs!

Although Briar's right front flipper has an old injury and is slightly deformed, it does not stop her from having full use of the flipper for swimming and maneuvering around her holding pool. 

Splinter - 5/28/13
Splinter is a 65-lb loggerhead that was caught on board the SCDNR Research Vessel, the Lady Lisa, with a large "splinter" in the right rear flipper. Upon arrival at the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital, we were shocked to see that the huge foreign body entered at the knee and was deeply embedded in the tissue. The tissue surrounding the splinter was red and swollen and the injury could have ultimately caused big problems for the turtle.


What at first looked like a large piece of wood turned out to be the tip of a swordfish bill. We will never know how the swordfish and loggerhead interacted causing this impalement but are happy that we were able to remove the "splinter" before it caused more damage.

Huntington - 5/30/13
This large loggerhead was rescued by boaters just off Hunting Beach, SC. The turtle was floating at the surface of the ocean and tilting to one side. When the boat approached, the turtle was unable to dive. Luckily the boaters recognized that the turtle was in distress and got her into the boat for a trip to meet SCDNR volunteers and staff to be transported to the South Carolina Aquarium.

Air trapped in the body of a sea turtle is normally the cause of positive buoyancy, and most often the air is trapped in the intestinal tract by an impaction. Radiographs are very useful is diagnosing intestinal impactions.

It took no time at all to see the impaction on x-ray, as it is very radiodense (does not allow electromagnetic radiation to pass). When radiodense objects are found in the intestines of a sea turtle, they are usually shells of the prey the turtles have been eating. 

Treatments to move impactions through the intestines include tube feeding mineral/fish oil, fluids to help with hydration and hypoglycemia (since the turtle is unable to eat), enemas, and vibrating massage around the area of impaction. The photo below shows how the turtle floats in her holding pool.

King - 5/30/13
A juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtle was caught by a recreational fisherman on the Myrtle Beach State Park fishing pier. SCDNR nest protection volunteers Mary Pringle (Isle of Palms) and Linda Mataya (North Myrtle - right) relayed the turtle to the South Carolina Aquarium.

Radiographs were taken to see the location of the hook and luckily it was in the upper portion of the esophagus. This particular hook removal surgery was very quick and did not require the turtle to be fully anesthetized, nor did the turtle have to go on antibiotics which is very rare for admissions. Hopefully this will be a quick rehab!

Parker - 6/10/13
The next admission was also a juvenile Kemp's ridley caught on hook and line from Myrtle Beach State Park. This turtle was very thin and had poor blood work, an indication that it was unhealthy and possibly scavenging for food at the pier. Hook removal surgery was a little more difficult as the hook was much deeper. Surgery was successful and the turtle is currently eating and doing well.

Skully - 6/18/13
This juvenile loggerhead was found by a Virginia sea turtle stranding volunteer who was visiting the Beaufort area. They were kayaking just off of Fripp Island and found the turtle stranded on a sandbar in Skull Inlet. Recognizing that this is not at all normal for a young sea turtle, the were able to get help from the Fripp Island turtlers to get the turtle to land.

In addition to being lethargic and thin, there is a wound on the plastron that could be causing the health issues. 

Miss Royal - 6/20/13
Once again, the SCDNR in-water research program caught a sea turtle in their trawl survey with injuries that if not treated, could cause big problems in time. Miss Royal (named after Port Royal Sound in Beaufort where the turtle was brought in for rescue) is an adult female loggerhead weighing approximately 215 pounds with two boat strike injuries in the carapace as well as a portion of the right rear flipper.

The silver on the wound is an aluminum water resistant spray-on bandage called Aluspray that adheres to the wound and provides a protective barrier under water.

NUD - 6/20/13
This loggerhead from the sound end of DeBordieu Beach is the most critical case in the hospital currently. The turtle is severely debilitated with a hematocrit level of 5.5%, total protein of 1.8 and no detectable blood glucose and is suffering from NUD, necrotic ulcerative disease of the skin. 

The margins of the carapace are soft and depressed (above) due to the calcium from the bone being absorbed. There are many necrotic ulcerations on the animal's soft tissue but one of the easiest to see on on photo (below) is the necrosis exposing the nuchal bone on the skull.

Upon admission the turtle received IV and subcutaneous fluids, vitamins, 2 different antibiotics, disinfecting skin treatment and is being kept in a shallow pool of water. 

Pluff - 6/20/13
This young loggerhead was found stuck in the marsh in Hilton Head Island. Affectionately named Pluff after the mud that is found in lowcountry marshes, the loggerhead was the third sea turtle stranding to be admitted to the Sea Turtle Hospital on Thursday. Pluff is suffering from severe hypoproteinemia (low blood protein) as well as anemia (low level of red blood cells). We are very used to seeing these levels low in sick sea turtles but the protein level is the lowest we have ever seen at 0.5. Antibiotics, vitamins and fluid therapy are included in the supportive care being given to Pluff.


When time permits, all of the patients will be added to the main Sea Turtle Hospital webpage and periodic updates will be provided. Thanks to everyone that is involved in the rescue of these sick and injured sea turtles, the volunteers that transport them, and the Sea Turtle Rescue volunteers, interns and staff that are always willing to come in after hours to help- there are far too many people involved to name here but we all know who you are!

Kelly Thorvalson
Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager