Loggerhead (Caretta Caretta)
Stranding Location: Awendaw, South Carolina
Age: adult female
Arrival Date: May 28, 2016
Weight: 127 kg (282 pounds)
This large, almost 300 pound adult female loggerhead was found by nest protection volunteer, Donnie Lane, on Bulls Island, an important nesting beach in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Occasionally, the early morning crew will see nesting females as they return to water from laying the night before. This particular turtle was spotted Saturday morning and it quickly became clear that she was in need of medical attention. Sadly, the mom sustained severe propeller wounds to her shell. A large portion of her caudal (rear end) carapace was missing and a substantial section remained only loosely attached. She was carefully transported by boat to A boat landing in Awendaw and driven by Department of Natural Resources staff to the Aquarium.
Upon admission, it took a small army of Sea Turtle Hospital staff, interns, volunteers and aquarists to get this robust turtle from the truck to the Animal Medical Facility. It appeared as if the turtle had not received the memo that she was injured, as she was full of energy and actively trying to climb off the cart! Once a towel was placed over her eyes, she calmed down which allowed staff to begin the admission treatment. With some local anesthetic, the remaining piece of broken carapace was easily removed. Fluids, vitamins and antibiotics were all given and blood taken. The Aquarium’s veterinary assistant was able to ultrasound her and confirm the presence of developing egg follicles. Once triage was completed, “Awendaw” was placed in half a tank of salt water to rest and recover. Later that day, two eggs were deposited in her tank, quickly netted out by staff and placed in a pseudo-egg chamber in a bucket of sand.
May 31, 2016: Awendaw has settled in nicely but is turning in to quite the picky eater. She seems to only have a taste for salmon, and refuses to eat any other type of fish we offer! Being such a large turtle she is already eating close to 3 pounds of food per day. Luckily for us, she’s not quite as messy as our other picky eater, Lady! Today Awendaw received a second ultrasound by staff vet, Dr. Shane Boylan, to determine if there were more shelled eggs that needed to be deposited. The ultrasound revealed only developing egg follicles which should get reabsorbed during her hospital stay. We will continue to monitor their development with repeat ultrasounds.
June 14, 2016: In our sea turtle hospital, we typically see juvenile and adult sea turtles suffering from illness, infection or chronic disease. Only on rare occasions are we fortunate enough to witness those other, smaller life stages within our walls, particularly in a state of health that gives us hope for the future of sea turtle populations in the wild.
Although we were hoping Awendaw would absorb the developing follicles we detected in her ultrasound and utilize the energy contained in those follicles for healing, that didn’t occur; her instinctual need to reproduce took precedence over her body’s need to recover from the boat strike wounds. Early on a Sunday morning, after nearly 2 weeks with us, she began depositing numerous eggs into her tank. Staff members immediately scooped up the eggs and carefully placed them in a large bucket of sand. Ultimately, 64 eggs were taken to the Isle of Palms and buried in the sand in the hopes that these eggs will produce hatchlings. Since 64 eggs represent only half a clutch, likely from just one of her two ovaries, we are closely monitoring Awendaw to see if she shells and deposits additional eggs.
August 18, 2016: Awendaw will have an ultrasound this week in order to assess the presence or absence of developing egg follicles. She has been routinely depositing 2-3 eggs each day in her tank for the last month. Hopefully the ultrasound will show no additional eggs, meaning she is done “laying” for the season. If this is the case, she may be able to be released this year. If not, Awendaw will most likely be with us through winter and released next spring.
September 13, 2016: Awendaw continues to be a picky eater and will only eat salmon! Although, she did seem to enjoy hunting and catching a few live blue crab that were given to her as an enrichment item. Awendaw seemed to have stopped “laying” eggs as she has not deposited any more since August 13th. However, an ultrasound a few weeks ago revealed more developing egg follicles. Due to the presence of the eggs, Awendaw will most likely spend the winter with us to be sure that she deposits all of her eggs before release.
October 1, 2016: During an exam given earlier this week, Awendaw received an ultrasound to see if there were still eggs remaining. The ultrasound showed that she has some shelled eggs present, and she will most likely deposit them in the near future. Additionally, her carapace fracture was cleaned and necrotic (dead) bone and tissue were removed. Awendaw still has a long road of healing ahead of her.
October 16, 2016: Awendaw’s wound continues to heal nicely. She also ate Mackerel today which is great news – now we can start adding a little variety to Awendaw’s “salmon only” diet!
November 3, 2016: Awendaw received another ultrasound earlier last week to determine if she still had developing follicles. We are concerned of a possible infection developing as she has not deposited any more eggs since mid-August. Therefore the decision has been made to induce her later this week in hopes of getting her to “lay” the eggs. One a happy note, Awendaw’s carapace fracture is continuing to heal up really well, and she now weighs 300 pounds, making her the largest patient currently in our hospital!
November 20, 2016: Awendaw was induced again last week to help her “lay” her remaining eggs, but no eggs were deposited. She received an ultrasound this week and her developing follicles appeared to shrink in size, which may indicate that she is absorbing them. We will follow up with another ultrasound in a few weeks. Awendaw still loves her salmon, but is warming up to mackerel and is getting more of a variety in her diet!
December 15, 2016: Awendaw received a follow up ultrasound to monitor her developing follicles. Her carapace fractures continue to heal, and she is now warming up to mackerel!
January 6, 2017: Awendaw’s boat strike fracture continues to improve, however the fracture site is very deep and still has a lot of healing progress to be made. Awendaw now weighs 307 lbs! She continues to make waves leaving lots of water to clean up throughout the day and is eating a hefty diet of mackerel and salmon.
February 7, 2017: Awendaw was pulled for a quick exam and debridement of her carapace boat strike fracture this week. Dr. Boylan said that there is a healthy bed of tissue granulation but that there is still lots of healing left! She is now getting 6 lbs of fish a day – though she still favors salmon, she will we eat mackerel if we feed it to her first!
March 1, 2017: We pulled Awendaw for a quick wound check this week to access how the boat strike fracture is healing. We will have to sedate her and do a heavy debridement to remove lots of dead bone and tissue and help promote a speedier healing process. Awendaw is receiving 6 lbs of fish a day now weighs 310 lbs!