Since 2007, Sea Turtle Rescue Program volunteer Barb Gobien has dedicated countless hours to the health and well-being of our sea turtle patients. Her most recent contribution exemplifies her generous and caring spirit. This September, a loggerhead named Boyles was declared non-releasable due to blindness from a boat strike. Determined to exhaust all potential treatment options before transferring Boyles to a permanent facility, Barb created a new feeding regime to truly assess the turtle’s vision and encourage more natural feeding behaviors. Day after day, Barb came to the Hospital to work with Boyles. This loggerhead sea turtle is now able to track a live blue crab around his tank – a sure sign his vision has improved since Barb’s treatment plan!
Because Boyles is blind, he has always been fed with tongs near the surface of his tank, a behavior which isn’t typical for benthic-feeding sea turtles. Barb’s new plan began with switching to long feeding tongs to acclimate Boyles to feeding off the bottom of his tank. Once Boyles began remaining low in the water column during feeding time, Barb began broadcast feeding large salmon heads and whole mackerel in the hopes that Boyles would accidentally bump into a piece of food and eat it. The broadcast feeding technique worked better than expected, however, as Boyles was observed approaching and biting at pieces of fish prior to touching the fish with his beak. Although still technically blind, Boyles was obviously seeing something and began to eat on his own, albeit slowly, for the first time since being admitted in July 2014!
Barb’s dedication to helping this turtle is truly astounding. She has been coming in almost every day for weeks to work closely with Boyles, wearing a different colored shirt every day for vision assessment purposes! The results of her work are astounding as well. Boyles’ vision has improved to the point where he is able to track a live blue crab around his tank, a clear sign that this loggerhead is responding visually and that his vision has improved significantly since Barb began working with him. Although Boyles can’t yet catch live prey on his own and is certainly not ready for release back into the wild, Barb has him moving in the right direction and our team now has high hopes for Boyles’ future. The Sea Turtle Rescue Program team is so grateful for Barb’s immense dedication to rehabilitating this endearing loggerhead sea turtle, and we’re positive that Boyles appreciates her too!